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Special Needs Policy

 Mission Statement


St. Mary’s College is a Catholic Secondary School committed to creating a respectful, caring, safe and supportive learning environment rooted in the Christian tradition and having as its aim the holistic education of all its students, encouraging each one to develop her full potential. The primary aim is to educate all students holistically in the Catholic tradition.

 Definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Special educational needs is defined as “a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical,sensory, mental health or learning disability or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition”.

(Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004)

The 2004 Act was enacted to ensure that persons with SEN can be educated where possible in an inclusive environment, that they can have the same rights to education as persons who do not have SEN and to ensure that such persons are equipped by the education system with the skills they need to participate in society and to live independent and fulfilled lives.

 Purpose of SEN Policy

St. Mary’s College is committed to creating a learning environment which is inclusive and supportive of all students in line with its Mission Statement. We strive to ensure that all, whatever difficulties they may have, are enabled to achieve their potential within the school community. The school’s primary aim is to educate the pupils holistically, in the Catholic tradition. In this we are guided by Catherine McAuley’s principle: “Let us fit the children for Earth without unfitting them for Heaven”. We aim to cater, as far as possible, for the individual needs of all students and to recognise their unique individuality. We also aim to develop students’ confidence and self-esteem and to educate them to their full potential so that socially, academically and morally they are enabled to participate meaningfully in adult life.

St. Mary’s College will use the resources provided by the Department of Education and Science, both financial and personnel, to make appropriate provision for students with SEN so that those students are able to participate in school life as far as these resources allow. St. Mary’s College will seek adequate resources, equipment and accommodation from the Department with a view to meeting our objectives. The resources sought may include visiting teachers, speech therapists, psychologists, counsellors, technical aid and equipment and other supports deemed necessary.

This policy aims to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to enable the school :

  • To make an accurate and appropriate assessment of the needs of students who have SEN;
  • To specify what additional resources may be required by the student and/or the school;
  • To provide for the needs identified in as far as resources allocated to the school permit
  • Identifying Students with SEN

Having applied for admission to St. Mary’s College and been accepted, but in the Spring before they commence there (while still in 6th class):

The school counsellor and/or resource teachers visit the feeder Primary Schools to assess the needs of the students due to start first year the following Autumn;

Parents are asked to complete an information form. They are also asked to present any assessment reports available on their daughters to the school. These reports will only be available to the Principal, Deputy Principal, counsellors and/or resource teachers and learning support teacher. Relevant information and recommendations will be given to teachers as necessary;

Parents/guardians meet the Principal or Deputy Principal and are asked for any other relevant information;

Prospective first years sit standardised educational tests.

In the first term of first year:

All first years sit standardised intelligence tests;

All first years also undergo standardised reading tests.

All information gleaned from testing, together with teacher observation, is used to determine if a student has SEN that need to be addressed.

There is also constant monitoring of all students’ progress throughout their school careers in consultation with the students themselves, their class teacher, their parents/guardians and the resource and/or learning support teacher.

Students with perceived learning/behaviour difficulties are, with parental approval, recommended for assessment. Where possible, such assessment will be conducted by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). If this is not possible, parents will be advised to have their daughters assessed privately so that their needs can be identified. NEPS psychologists carry out a small number of educational assessments in the school each year. Such an assessment may result in extra resource time being allocated to a student. Any extra resource recommended will be applied for by the Principal.

Current provision for Students with SEN

St. Mary’s College currently has quite extensive resources directed towards students with SEN and have also developed processes to ensure provision is appropriate and properly targeted.

The school employs 2 Counsellors, 2 Resource Teachers, 1 Learning Support Teacher and 2 Special Needs Assistants in 2009-2010. These resources may change from year to year;

A student allocated resource time receives this time in either one-to-one teaching or in small-group classes;

Students with high incidence SEN (without the allocation of discrete resource time) are catered for in small-group classes;

A student with SEN who experiences difficulty in coping with the breadth of the current curriculum is permitted to drop a subject. This occurs only after consultation with the student, her parents/guardians, the relevant subject teacher and the Resource/Learning Support teacher. The student then receives extra tuition for her other subjects;

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is prepared for any first, second or third year student who has been allocated and avails of resource hours. This Plan is drawn up by the Resource Teachers following consultation with the student, her parents/guardians and her teachers;

The post holder for Special Needs and the Deputy Principal apply for Reasonable Accommodation for Certificate Examinations (R.A.C.E.). R.A.C.E. is available to students with specific learning difficulty or with physical, hearing or visual difficulties. It should be noted that accommodation approved at Junior Certificate DOES NOT automatically guarantee approval at Leaving Certificate time.


Class Teacher

The class teacher is responsible for each student in his/her class group including students with SEN.

Resource Teachers and Learning Support Teacher

Their responsibilities include:

  • To administer standardised tests;
  • To reassess students from time to time;
  • To draw up IEPs for junior students (see above), in consultation with students and parents/guardians;
  • To identify students for Educational Assessments with NEPS psychologists;
  • To fill in the necessary application forms;
  • To meet the psychologist on his/her visit to the school.
  • Principal
  • The Principal’s role in relation to SEN includes:
  • To oversee, in consultation with the Board of Management and relevant staff, the development, implementation and review of policies to promote inclusion of students with SEN;
  • To monitor the implementation of this and related policies;
  • To provide a written annual review of the operation of this policy to the Board of Management;
  • To liaise with relevant external bodies including the Department of Education and Science, NEPS, HSE and NCSE;
  • To apply to the Department of Education and Science for the necessary teaching and other resources;
  • To plan timetable for students with SEN;
  • To meet or arrange for meetings with parents and ensure the relevant information is included on application forms;
  • To arrange for assessments;
  • To monitor progress of the relevant students through records and otherwise;
  • To develop and monitor the procedures regarding access to confidential information;
  • To arrange for the necessary in-service training for staff.

Board of Management

The Board has a crucial strategic role in relation to ensuring that the SEN policy is a meaningful one, that it reflects the mission and ethos of St. Mary’s College, that it complies with statutory requirements and that its implementation is monitored on an ongoing basis. The Board will also ensure that the policy is reviewed on a regular basis. A key means of managing its role will be through consideration of an annual update on SEN in the school by the Principal.


As noted earlier in this document the Counsellors have responsibility for administering tests. They also contribute to discussions on the effectiveness of the SEN policy and to specific issues arising.


This policy will be reviewed annually. The basis of such review will be the report brought by the Principal to the Board of Management. The views and experience of relevant staff, parents and students will be considered in the review.

September 2009

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