Special Needs Policy and Plan

Description of School :

In accordance with the mission statement of Riversdale Community College, the school aims to be a supportive and inclusive environment for students with special needs.
Riversdale Community College endeavours to enable all students to have a positive experience in the school through services, programmes and activities designed to enable each one to achieve his or her full potential. The school has a mixed ability policy to enable inclusivity.

Rationale :

To ensure that RCC includes all students of all abilities in its policies and objectives and that the needs of all students are identified and as far as possible provided for.

The Education Act of 1998 states in Section 9 that a school shall, “as far as resources permit, ensure that the educational needs of all students, including those with special needs, are identified and provided for.” It further states in section 15 that “The BOM shall publish the policy of the school concerning admission to and participation in the
school and ensure that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents’ choice are respected.” The Equal Status Act of2000 states that the school as a service provider cannot discriminate on grounds of disability and cannot deny access to any of the school’s courses or facilities.

The Education of Persons with Special Needs Act 2004 has as key principles that Special Needs Students have the same rights as their peers. School should be an inclusive environment and provide for the greater involvement of parents.

Mission Statement :

Our mission in Riversdale Community College is to create an educational environment that is positive, safe and inclusive. We recognise the key involvement of students, family and the wider community. We embrace diversity, promote integration and foster mutual respect. We celebrate achievement, address the needs of the individual, challenge, and encourage every person to reach their full potential.

Aims :

We aim to ensure that the structures and programmes of Riversdale Community College are in place to cater for all students.

Definition of Special Needs :

A person who has special educational needs …. 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.

Objectives :

The full range of relevant services and programmes are identified, accessed and deployed for the benefit of all students, including those with special needs. These include admissions policy, HSCL, transfer and induction programme, deployment of qualified and experienced staff, now including SNAs, syllabus, school completion activities, support of pastoral care team including chaplain and guidance counsellor,
contact with parents, assessment and referral, where appropriate, to in-school support services and outside services and training of teachers in adapting their programmes and practices for students with special needs.

Staffing :

1). In Riversdale Community College the model of organisation used is that of a Special Needs and Learning Support Coordinator, with a small group of experienced resource teachers providing extra help for S.E.N. students in literacy and numeracy.

2). There is also the Resource – Learning Support team. The Resource- Learning support team varies from year to year and is drawn from as wide an educational spectrum as possible in order to provide support in as many areas as possible. Members of the team include experienced and qualified resource teachers and learning support teachers. The planning of the delivery of the learning support is overseen by the Special Needs – Learning support Coordinator in collaboration with year heads, tutors and subject teachers. Students are involved and parents are also consulted.

3). Special Needs Assistants: Where a special needs assistant is assigned to the full-time assistance of a specific student, the duties should be modified to accommodate the particular needs of the student. However, the allocation of a special needs assistant to assist a student needs to be balanced against the student’s need to develop independence and to gain access to education in school alongside and in the same way as the other students. Therefore this is carefully considered for each student and help is modified in accordance with the student’s needs. They are an intrinsic component of the Special Needs Programme.

Selection of Students for Support and Placement of Special Needs Students :

Depending on the particular category of special needs of the individual students there are several methods of providing support for the students.for these students.

Low Incidence Students:

These students are those who have been formally assessed as having special educational needs by a psychologist, psychiatrist, speech and language therapist or other appropriate professional and on whose behalf an allocation of resource-teacher hours has been made to the school by the S.E.N.O. The teaching resource hours as given by the S.E.N.O. are deployed solely for the use of students with designated special needs.

The type of resource given will be tailored to the specific needs of each individual student.


High Incidence Students:

These students will have diverse special needs. Many will fall within the moderate general learning disability, borderline general learning disability or mild general learning disability categories.  Some will be of average / high I.Q. but have dyslexia and /or specific Learning difficulties. They will be part of the J.C.S.P. programme and  their progress will be  is constantly monitored ,evaluated and changes made to their plans as necessary. The range of programmes and experiences provided for the students is built around their needs.

All programmes suitable for these students are available in Riversdale Community College. These include the J.C.S.P. and the L.C.A. programmes. Materials have been specially developed for every aspect of the curricula by the staff of the college. The school management ensures that experienced staff members are assigned to teach such students. These students may require careful management, motivation and teaching to enable them to make meaningful progress in school.

Sometimes withdrawal may be provided for a section of a class group for the academic year. This type of support is provided by a learning support teacher, e.g. a maths class where students are doing ordinary level or foundation level junior cert.


1). Students with Specific Learning difficulties with average intelligence:

Learning Support teaching is supplied to these students to match their specific needs. Where possible this resource teaching is provided when students are not in core subject classes. This is in the form of withdrawal. The process involves consultation between mainstream teachers and the resource teacher and the parents. The mainstream teachers are aware of the areas of work that are covered in the withdrawal lessons, so that this work is supported in the classroom situation. Mainstream teachers can contribute to planning the subject matter of withdrawal lessons by advising the resource teacher about the language, concepts and skills that are being addressed in the mainstream class programme and how the resource teacher or learning-support teacher might support the student’s learning in this area.

This  learning support is crucial for students in this category who are entitled to Reasonable Accommodation  in the State Examinations. These students require practice and training on the use of tapes, laptops and scribes.


2) Students entitled to Special Needs Assistants:

Where a student has been granted access to a Special needs assistants a programme is drawn up to meet the individual’s needs , following the guidelines as laid out by the  Department of education and Science  and agreement between the student, the school and the parents.



The teaching resource hours as given by the S.E.N.O. are deployed solely for the use of students with designated special needs.

Learning Support hours are used for students requiring learning support.

Roles of Key Personnel


The principal leads the establishment of the special educational needs support team. The core of the support team consists of the principal; the Special Needs/learning Support Coordinator, the guidance counsellor, and the H.S.C.L. The members of this core team work closely with mainstream teachers and, as appropriate, with other specialist teachers, such as those involved in pastoral care roles, the school chaplain,   special needs assistants and other relevant staff members in providing inclusive education for students with special educational needs.

The principal is the leader of the special educational needs support team within the school, which provides an effective and holistic response to students’ needs throughout the curriculum.


The Special Needs /Learning Support Coordinator:

– Coordinates the school’s provision for the inclusion of students with special needs as granted by the S.E.N.O.

– draws up the Resource/Learning Support timetable in consultation with the staff and the resource team.

Holds meetings with the resource team to plan and draw up I.E.P.s and Group plans.

– Assists in programme planning for individual students with special educational needs and, as appropriate, provide advice to teacher colleagues on curriculum, teaching and learning strategies, textbooks, and other teaching and learning resources.

– Consults and collaborates with coordinators of programmes and curricula used for these students e.g. the Literacy Coordinator, the J.C.S.P. and the L.C.A. coordinator.

– Consults with the principal in the making of applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations (RACE) for students with special educational needs and in-school arrangements for providing the appropriate accommodations for these students in school and state examinations

– Liaises, along with the guidance counsellor, Home School Liaison coordinator and Care Team, with external professionals and agencies, e.g. the S.E.N.O., for resources and support services for students with special educational needs

– Facilitates, with the guidance counsellor, the arrangement of psychological or other assessment, as appropriate, of students who have special educational needs or students who are suspected of having special educational needs

– Manages a tracking system for all students with special educational needs who are receiving additional special education support and maintain records of progress relating to these students

– Makes arrangements for the planning, implementation and review of individual education plans for students with special educational needs when the relevant provisions of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act

– Organises the storage of and access to reports and records on students with low achievement and those with special educational needs.


The Resource Teacher in Riversdale Community College:

The resource teacher is involved in the teaching of students with special educational needs, one-to-one, in small groups, in special classes, or through co-operative teaching / team teaching with colleagues.

The resource teacher is involved in co-operative teaching with mainstream teachers in mainstream classes. The resource teacher withdraws students for additional classes in literacy or mathematics (or both), as appropriate.

The resource teacher attends regular meetings of the Special Needs /Learning Support Team.


The Learning-Support Teacher :

The learning-support teacher provides supplementary teaching for students within the mild borderline or low average range who have not been granted resource teaching by the S.E.N.O. but still require education intervention. Priority is  given to students with low achievement who are performing at or below the tenth percentile on standardised tests of literacy or mathematics, or as diagnosed by a psychological report on the W.I.A.11 or the W.I.S.C.1V. As part of the Special needs Learning Support team the learning support teacher is involved in in-class and support teaching, in cooperation and development of a programme for the student with the cooperation of the mainstream teacher, in the monitoring, evaluation and review of the student plan with the Special Needs /Learning Support Coordinator. The learning support teacher is responsible mainly for instruction. Regular meetings are held to develop and monitor progress of the students, whole-school policies on assessment, homework and planning for individual students.

Year heads and class tutors:

Year heads and class tutors support the creation of an inclusive climate within the school and contribute significantly to the work of the special educational needs support team. Year heads and class tutors facilitate the inclusion of an individual student with special educational needs by monitoring the student’s progress within the year group.

Special Needs Assistants

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are allocated to post-primary schools to provide care assistance to named students who have special educational needs. Special needs assistants are recruited specifically to assist schools in providing the necessary non-teaching services to students with assessed educational needs. The allocation of posts to the school is reviewed each year. Currently there are 3 SNAs in Riversdale Community College catering to the needs of 9 students with a broad range of care needs, for example, a significant medical need  , a significant impairment of physical or sensory function, students whose behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or to other students and students requiring help in the personal care and safety areas.

They work closely with the teachers in providing assistance to students with special educational needs. Special needs assistants normally carry out their work in the school premises. However, on occasions when students with special needs are required to attend a venue outside the school, a special needs assistant (or assistants) may be assigned to provide assistance to the students in the other setting and to accompany them while they are travelling to and from the school.

Special needs assistants are expected to treat all matters relating to school business and their work in the school as strictly confidential.

The duties of special needs assistants are assigned by the principal and supervised by the Special Needs /learning Support Coordinator. There duties are drawn from the list as compiled by the department of Education and Science and used to best suit out students and school. The allocation of a special needs assistant to assist a student is balanced against the student’s need to develop independence and to gain access to education in school alongside and in the same way as the other students. Care is taken, therefore, to ensure that the deployment of a special needs assistant does not serve to segregate the student with special educational needs from their classmates or to make them more dependent on assistance from others. All these considerations are discussed with the student and parents.


The HSCL co-ordinator facilitates communication with parents of new special needs students through links with the feeder primary schools. With the permission of parents, information about students’ needs is communicated to the Learning Support Coordinator and resource teachers’ .Educational/Psychological Reports are handed over. They are stored securely by the Special Needs /Learning Support Coordinator and the guidance counsellor. Recommendations are communicated to relevant teachers by the year head.

HSCL co-ordinator, guidance counsellors, year head and school completion officer work with the feeder primary school teachers to prepare 6th class students for transfer to secondary. This includes visits to primary school classes and visits of students and their parents to Riversdale Community College.

School Completion targeted students are invited to participate in a preparatory summer programme. Every opportunity is offered to parents to work in partnership with the school for the good of their child. HSCL links with parents from the transfer stage and offers meetings, courses, home visits and support for parents who find visiting the school hard. As well as formal parent-teacher meetings twice a year, individual appointments are offered to parents to discuss their child’s progress and to identify ways of working together.

School Completion Programme

Many of the students presenting with educational needs are targeted by the School Completion programme. They are invited to participate in the Breakfast Club and in after school clubs. The chaplain identifies children experiencing social difficulties and invites them to participate in the after school clubs. A lot of caring support is given to encourage children to feel confident to take part.

Riversdale Community College has a history of working in partnership with the Blanchardstown Youth Service to support vulnerable young people. The BYS runs out of school clubs and summer programmes which students are encouraged to participate in.


In Riversdale Community College we have developed our own materials, adapted curricula and we use a wide range of strategies in our teaching of students with special needs.

  1. Statement of learning objectives: The learning objectives are outlined at the beginning of the lesson, reference is made to them during the lesson, and a review with the students of what has been learned takes place at the end of the lesson
  2. The content of the lesson is matched to the needs of the students and to their levels of ability.
  3. Visual, auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic channels of learning are used. The use of I.C.T. develops research skills, reading for information skills, reinforces subject matter and makes students competent in certain areas of I.C.T. All special needs students and classes have timetabled access to computers.
  4. The teaching and learning materials, including concrete materials, are appropriate for the students’ chronological ages, interests, and aptitudes.
  5. Opportunities are taken throughout the curriculum to enable these students to develop their language and communication skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing)
  6. Opportunities are taken throughout the curriculum to enable these students to develop their personal skills and their social interaction skills
  7. Homework is designed to consolidate or extend learning, to promote independent learning, to monitor individual students’ and class progress, and to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and learning.
  8. Resource teaching may be in the form of co-operative teaching .The term “co-operative teaching” is used here to denote any arrangement whereby two or more teachers work together in a collaborative manner with a class of students who have diverse learning needs. Within the classroom and in the context of the inclusion of students with special educational needs, the “teaching team” will typically be made up of the mainstream teacher and either the resource teacher or the learning-support teacher. The members of the teaching team share responsibility for the planning and provision of instruction to the class. The resource teacher and learning-support teacher usually pays particular attention to students with special educational needs or those with low achievement and endeavours to ensure that these students experience success in their learning programmes. This has been found to work particularly well with students requiring different learning styles and/ or assistive technology. There is successful co-operative teaching requires collaboration between resource teachers, learning-support teachers, and mainstream teachers. The programmes to be taught to the students and the teaching and learning strategies to be used should be agreed in advance. It works particularly well for the L.C.A. classes.
  9. Accelerated Reading is a programme used in the college. All first and second years take part in this programme and arse assessed throughout the course as well as before the programme begins each year and at the end of the academic year.
  10. Frequently paired reading is managed as class wide tutoring in Riversdale Community College. It can also be used during the Reading Challenge- again the student reads for a set period per day for up to 4 weeks. Progress is monitored.
  11. Other programmes are used in conjunction with the J.C.S.P.Library. All J.C.S.P. classes are timetabled1or 2 classes a week in the library. Here programmes to enhance reading are used.
  12. SRA kits and other reading kits are used. Under the control of the Literacy Coordinator many students are taking part in “Catch Up Literacy”.
  13. Active learning and discovery learning, check-lists , key words , key word dictionaries , mind-maps , spider grams , anagrams ,graphic reminders, writing frames and brainstorms are all part of the whole school approach to teaching at all levels.

Assessment and Planning:


The first stage in the planning process is an assessment of the student’s current needs. This may include an assessment that is carried out by a professional from outside the school such as a psychologist or speech and language therapist.

If these assessments are not available but deemed necessary the Special Needs – Learning Support co-ordinator will start the process for accessing these.

Assessment  may include in -school assessment processes such as  weekly, monthly or end-of-term tests as well as the assessment procedures carried out for specific purposes by guidance counsellors, learning-support teachers, and resource teachers.

Entrance examination scores may be reviewed and other standardised tests administered as necessary.

Literacy and numeracy scores are provided by the Literacy Coordinator who is tracking these as they progress through the college.

The testing is carried out at present by the guidance counsellors or the special needs coordinator and resource teachers.

A key need is staff development of newer members of staff in this area.

The second stage in this process is the planning for education of the student – the individual education plan. Having gathered all the baseline data for a student the Special needs –learning support coordinator in consultation with mainstream teachers and the learning support or designated resource teacher draws up a plan for that student. This is monitored and reviewed.

Due to government cut backs and retirement of members of staff the Special needs/ Learning support department has been severely cut. However recently (Nov.2012)  we have  been assigned a new resource teacher and a member of staff has recently qualified as a Special Needs teacher. It s planned that these will spear head the Resource team and the development of the school plan including I.E.P.s and strategies.


The third stage in this process is the review of this plan and the I.E.P. This is done on a term by term basis or by consultation if deemed necessary. Group education plans are also drawn up for small group of students who are withdrawn together. These will continue as in previous years but they are under review.

Testing explained :

The use of a standardised test enables a teacher to obtain a general indication of a student’s achievement and to interpret the student’s level of attainment by reference to the performance of other students in the same age range or class level. Standardised test scores are expressed in a number of forms, for example standard scores and percentile ranks.

Criterion-referenced tests are usually linked to the curriculum, and the results show the teacher whether a student has mastered a specific learning objective. A diagnostic test is designed to provide specific information about a student’s strengths and needs in some aspect of learning, for example word identification skills or an understanding of number concepts.

In general, diagnostic tests are administered individually and may or may not provide norm-referenced information.

 Informal methods of assessment

Informal methods of assessment include classroom tests, informal observation by the teacher, evaluation of homework, and informal analysis of students’ language and social development. Informal methods are useful for assessing aspects of a student’s general behaviour, social interaction with others, and organisational skills. Informal methods are also useful in monitoring a student’s progress and in diagnosing specific strengths, needs, and learning preferences. Informal assessment can provide valuable baseline information for planning and teaching. Informal assessment methods can be applied in the normal classroom setting, and the information gathered can lead directly to planning for teaching and learning.

Diagnostic assessment

The in-school diagnostic assessment by teachers of students with special educational needs can be carried out through the use of either formal or informal methods of assessment. The objective of diagnostic assessment is to identify the student’s learning strengths and needs.

  • deal with such areas as literacy, mathematics, social development, and learning needs in other areas of the curriculum
  • provide information on the student’s knowledge, skills and learning style on which the development of the student’s learning programme can be based
  • Provide a basis for discussion with the student and others in regard to the setting of learning goals and objectives in the individual educational plan.


Christine Weldon  2016.

Ratified and accepted by the B.O.M. , teaching staff and parents.