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The law on ... Special needs

Basic issues

Schools cope with an increasing number of pupils with special educational needs. As such, it is incumbent upon them to ensure that these children reach their full potential when at school. This can be done through a number of strategies including individual educational plans, school actionschool action plus, pastoral support plans, behavioural plans, Common Assessment Frameworks (CAFs) and referrals to outside agencies depending upon the severity of the child's learning disability.

The idea behind these strategies is to ensure early intervention and prevention and to provide the child with a holistic approach to learning. It also assists parents and all professionals who are in contact with these children to have a better understanding of what support they need.

Who is responsible?

The school is responsible for identifying that the child may have a learning disability. The strategies above will assist a school to do this. Schools should keep close liaisons with the child's parents as further investigation of a child's learning disability may lead to a referral for a statutory assessment via the local authority. The school should ensure that it is doing all that it can to identify children who have special educational needs and to provide the necessary provision to those children in order to meet their needs within its own resources. All reasonable adjustments should be made.

What to watch out for

It is a growing problem that children with special educational needs often get labelled by schools as "troublesome" or "naughty" because no detailed investigation has been undertaken into their behaviour or learning difficulties. Most of these issues cause concern because the child's needs have not been identified and the child is looking for attention or making a cry for help.

It is important that teaching staff are aware of these issues and should take positive steps to identify challenging children and to consider whether their needs warrant investigation rather than to shrug them off as problem children.

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