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Additional support in Northern Ireland

All children have the right to access education and to have their needs met, this includes children and young people with all types and levels of deafness.

Understanding the additional support your deaf child can get in early education, school and beyond, can help you make sure that your child gets the most out of their education. The type of support available for your deaf child will depend on:  

  • the type of school they’re attending or are planning to attend (for example, a mainstream school vs a special school)
  • their support needs in school.

We have more information about your child's rights in education in Northern Ireland.

Special educational needs (SEN)  

A child has SEN if they have a disability or learning difficulty which means they need extra or specialised support to access their education.  

Your child’s school or other education setting is responsible for identifying and assessing children with SEN. Most permanently deaf children will be viewed as having SEN. However, this depends on the approach taken in your local area to identifying and labelling children’s needs.  

If you think your child has SEN, you should talk to your child’s education provider, teacher or school principal. The school may also put you in touch with their learning support coordinator (LSC). LSCs used to be known as special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs).

The LSC can discuss your child’s needs in more detail, the support available within the school, and how your child can get additional support if needed. The Department of Education (DE) has more information in their SEN guidance for parents.

School-based support  

If your child is identified as having SEN, their pre-school, early years setting or school should take action to remove barriers to learning and put effective support in place. This is known as school-based support. 

Education settings will provide practical support for your child based on conversations with you and any other professionals working with your child, such as their Teacher of the Deaf (ToD).  

Schools must follow the SEN Code of Practice which lays out three stages of increasing support for students with SEN.  

  1. Your child’s teacher or school will monitor your child’s progress. They’ll speak to both you and your child about the type of help they would like which would help them progress. The school can then make changes to the curriculum to make sure your child can access their education.  
  2. The school’s LSC will create a personal learning plan (PLP) after speaking with you, other teachers, and possibly your child’s health professionals. The PLP sets targets to be achieved with a date to review and check progress. PLPs used to be known as Individual Education Plans (IEPs).  
  3. If your child still needs further help, the school will look for outside specialist help, such as from an educational psychologist. The school’s LSC will then create a new PLP with dates to review and check progress.  

Most deaf children with SEN are supported by their education setting through this approach. If your child’s school cannot provide enough support themselves, you or the school can ask the Education Authority for a statutory assessment to see if a statement of SEN is needed.

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