The Special Educational Needs and Disability Order 2005 aims to strengthen the rights of children with special educational needs to be educated in a mainstream school. It also introduced disability discrimination legislation to cover schools, further and higher education and general qualification bodies.

Special Educational Needs

The legislation is jointly sponsored by the Department of Education (DE) and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

The SENDO Order 2005:

  • strengthens the rights of children with SEN to be educated in mainstream schools where parents want this and the interests of other children can be protected
  • requires Education and Library Boards (ELBs) to make arrangements for services to provide parents of children with SEN with advice and information and the means of resolving disputes with schools and boards
  • requires ELBs to comply within prescribed periods, with orders of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) and make other changes in support of the SENDIST appeals’ process and the statutory assessment process
  • requires schools to inform parents where they are making special educational provision for their child and ensure parents have a right of appeal where schools request a statutory assessment of a pupils SEN

Disability discrimination in schools

The SENDO Order 2005 :

  • makes it unlawful for schools to treat pupils with disabilities less favourably than other pupils in all aspects of school life, without justification
  • places a duty on schools to make reasonable adjustments so that pupils with disabilities are not put at a substantial disadvantage compared to pupils who do not have disabilities (however there is no duty to remove or alter physical features or provide auxiliary aids and services)
  • places a duty on ELBs and schools to plan strategically and make progress in increasing accessibility to schools premises and to the curriculum and in improving the way in which written information is provided to pupils with disabilities

The Departments have requested the Equality Commission to provide advice and guidance, an independent conciliation service and to produce codes of practice.

Disability discrimination in further and higher education

The SENDO Order 2005:

  • makes it unlawful for locations of further and higher education to treat students with disabilities less favourably, without justification, for a reason which relates to their disability
  • places a duty on institutions to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people who have a disability are not put at a substantial disadvantage (compared to people who do not have a disability) in accessing further and higher education

The Departments have requested the Equality Commission to provide advice and guidance, an independent conciliation service and to produce codes of practice.

Disability discrimination by general qualifications bodies

The process makes it unlawful for general qualification bodies to discriminate against people with disabilities in relation to the award of prescribed qualifications. Two sets of regulations have been made:

The first step is to set out the enforcement mechanisms for claims of unlawful discrimination against a general qualifications body and makes provision in respect of alterations to premises that are occupied by a general qualifications body under a lease.

The second lists of qualifications coming under the scope of SENDO and makes clear that the granting of exemptions from one or more components of an assessment or examination in certain circumstances will be lawful.