Under the Education Act 1998, schools are under statutory obligation to “provide education to students which is appropriate to their abilities and needs” and to “ensure that the educational needs of all students, including those with a disability or other special educational needs, are identified and provided for”.
Planning is a normal part of a teacher’s work and planning tools, like the student support file, have been created as a resource to help schools provide for their students.
Circulars 0013 and 0014 2017, which introduced the model for allocating special education teachers to schools, noted the importance of educational planning. This is in the context of ensuring that the children with the greatest level of need receive the greatest level of support.
The Circulars note that educational planning is an essential element of a whole-school approach to meeting pupils’ needs.
Guidelines for schools on educational planning and monitoring of outcomes through the Student Support File, are contained in the Guidelines for Primary and Post primary Schools: Supporting Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs in Mainstream Schools.
All schools are therefore encouraged to use Education Plans or Student Support plans for children who are receiving additional teaching or care in schools.
Whereas there is not currently a statutory requirement for schools to provide a particular form of Individual Education Plan, it is evident that the majority of schools do use some form of education planning to plan and record the support that they provide for pupils with special educational needs. This is considered to be both beneficial for schools and children and is regarded as best practice.
The ongoing provision of planning will represent a continuation of the good practice that is occurring in the majority of schools.
The Teaching Council is the statutory body with responsibility for professional standards and regulation of the teaching profession. Under Section 38 of the Teaching Council Act, all initial teacher education programmes are subject to review and accreditation by the Teaching Council, in accordance with the Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers (published in 2011 and revised in March 2017). In accordance with these Criteria and Guidelines, inclusive education is a mandatory component for all students in ITE.
The learning outcomes of ITE programmes also reflect the need for the teacher to be able to conduct a systematic, holistic assessment of learner needs; to apply knowledge of the individual potential of students, their disposition towards learning and their backgrounds, identities and learning styles to their teaching; to set clear, challenging and achievable expectations for pupils; to evaluate learner progress; to act as an advocate for students, referring students for educational support as required and participating in the provision of that support, amongst other relevant outcomes.
The Teaching Council is currently carrying out a review of the impact of the current programmes, with a view to amending the Criteria and Guidelines before the next round of accreditation commences in 2020.
A recently published report from the National Council for Special Education on Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion: Phase 1 and 2 (NCSE Research Report No. 26), found that there is in general much good practice related to inclusive education in ITE, particularly in relation to the fostering of positive attitudes to inclusion, while also noting that there is scope for further alignment between theory and practice, in particular between student placement and the university experience. These findings will be considered by the Teaching Council in the course of its work.