The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004: Explaining the Act (2023)

The President signed the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act into law in July 2004.

The Act does a number of things:

  1. It sets out the aims and expected outcomes of education for persons with special educational needs.
  2. It outlines key elements of the process by which these ends are to be achieved.
  3. It describes the structures for implementing the provisions of the Act and establishes a new body, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE).
  4. It provides for appeals procedures in relation to decisions about the education of persons with special educational needs and establishes an Appeals Board.

The key words in the title of the Act are ‘education’, ‘person’ and ‘special educational needs’. The Act does not define education or person but does define the term ‘child’ as ‘a person not more than eighteen years of age’. ‘Special educational needs’ means 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’. The main focus of the Act is directed towards early education, first and second levels, with a few brief references to further and adult education.

The Aims and Outcomes

The Act acknowledges that persons with special educational needs have the same right to education as their peers without special educational needs. The legislation aims to ensure that children with special educational needs will be enabled to leave school with the skills necessary to participate, to the level of their ability, in society and to live independent lives.

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Education is to be ‘inclusive’ unless there are specific reasons why a specialised placement is required for a child. This might happen, firstly, where inclusive education would not be in the best interests of the child concerned; or secondly, where the inclusion of the child with special educational needs would be inconsistent with the effective provision of education for the children with whom s/he is to be educated.

The Act highlights the role of parents in education. Parents are to be consulted about their child’s assessment, the child’s education, kept informed of the child’s progress and involved on the team for preparing an education plan.

An educational plan is a key element in the child’s progress through the education system. The plan is to be prepared by a team including the parents, the teacher, the child and other professionals. Reviews are to occur annually and amendments made to the plan where appropriate.

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The Process of Education

The need to identify children who may have a special educational need and to address those needs is a central element of the Act. There is a number of assessment processes envisaged. These include assessment on an in-school basis, assessment by a health board and assessment at the direction of the NCSE. Where special educational needs are identified, an education plan is to be drawn up for the child and schools will be entitled to additional resources and supports to assist in the implementation of the plan. The plan is to be reviewed regularly and the parents and special educational needs organisers are to receive reports about the child’s progress.

The Act assigns the principal of a school an important role in the education of children with special educational needs. S/he has duties in the identification of children who may have special educational needs, in taking steps to address these needs, in arranging for assessments, in consulting parents, in preparing, in implementing and reviewing an education plan and in making arrangements for transfer/ transition from one school to another. The Act also makes provision for parents to notify the principal that they are of the opinion that their child is not benefiting from the education provided in the school to the extent that would be expected and in turn the principal is required to take appropriate steps to address the needs of the child.

Where a child is not a student, the relevant health board is generally responsible for the assessment. Where special educational needs are confirmed, the health board informs the council of the child’s needs and a plan is then developed at the direction of the council.

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At various stages in the process there are opportunities to refer disputes to the Appeals Board. Various parties, including parents, boards of management, health boards and the council, may bring an appeal or seek resolution of a dispute.

The New Structures

The Act provides for three major changes to current structures. In the first place, the Department of Education and Science currently has responsibility for special education. This will evolve as the provisions of the Act come into effect. Three ministers, the Ministers for Education and Science, for Health and Children and for Finance will have roles and must take government policy into account in discharging special education responsibilities.

Secondly, the NCSE will be established. Much of the work currently undertaken by the Department of Education will be transferred to the NCSE. One of the new developments is that the council has the power to designate a particular school for a child, taking into account the needs of the child, the wishes of the parents and the capacity of the school to accommodate the child and meet his/her needs including the capacity of the school to meet the child’s needs with additional supports and resources. The council employs special educational needs organisers who will work at various locations around the country.

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The third development is that an Appeals Board will be established. Until now, if parents were dissatisfied with the provision for their child, their only option, if their concerns were not resolved locally or in consultation with state organisations, was to go to court. Under the Act several types of complaints can be brought to the Appeals Board and the board will determine these. Parents, schools, health boards and the council can bring complaints to the board.

In addition to the appeals mechanism the Act also provides for mediation in certain cases. This can arise where a person complains to the Minister that the special educational needs of a person are not being met or where a person proposes to bring or has brought legal proceedings in respect of the alleged failure to meet those needs. The Act empowers the Minister for Education and Science to prescribe regulations to make these complaints the subject of mediation. The mediation process will be held in private and limited information disclosed about it or about any outcomes. If a person decides not to participate in the mediation process and goes to court, the court may, when making a decision as to costs, take a refusal to participate or a failure to participate in good faith in the mediation, into account.

The Promises and Pitfalls

There are positive aspects in the Act. However many of the promises in the Act, are subject to available resources. This is a key difficulty. The Act is clear that any decisions made by the Minister for Education and Science or the Minister for Health and Children are subject to the approval of the Minister for Finance.

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Furthermore, the timeframe for the Act allows the provisions to be implemented over the course of several years. An implementation group will make recommendations and after that the provisions should be in place within five years. In practical terms this means that the provisions of the Act are up to six years away from becoming a reality. In these circumstances the delays that have bedevilled special education provision to date are likely to continue for several years to come.


What does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 provide for students with special needs? ›

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.

What did the 2004 Individuals with disabilities Improvement Act do? ›

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) is a federal law that guarantees all eligible children with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21 (or until the child graduates) the right to a free appropriate public education designed to meet their individual needs.

What are the 4 purposes of idea? ›

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by the federal government to ensure that all children with disabilities are provided with “equality of [educational] opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.”

What is the epsen Act 2004 Ireland? ›

The EPSEN Act (2004) promotes inclusive education for learners with SEN. It outlines the duties and responsibilities of schools' boards of management and principal teachers with regard to education provision for learners with SEN.

What is the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? ›

IDEA does the following: Ensures that all children with an identified disability receive special education and related services to address their individual needs. Ensures that children with disabilities be prepared for employment and independent living.

What are the main points of the education Act? ›

Sharper accountability With increased freedom, should come sharper accountability: • Focuses Ofsted inspections on four key areas – pupil achievement; quality of teaching; leadership and management; and behaviour and safety. Creates a power to end routine inspections of outstanding schools and colleges.

What requirements did IDEA 2004 change or add? ›

IDEA 2004 included a new provision requiring the special education and related services, supplemental aids and services outlined on a student's IEP need to be based on “peer-reviewed research” to the “extent practicable.”

Which of the following is not a major emphasis of IDEA 2004? ›

Which of the following is NOT a major emphasis of IDEA 2004? Inclusion of students with disabilities into the general education classroom.

Who passed IDEA 2004? ›

As of 2018, approximately seven million students enrolled in U.S. schools receive special education services due to a disability. An Act To reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and for other purposes. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 3, 2004.

What is the most common type of special needs? ›

Some of the more prevalent types of developmental special needs are: Autism Spectrum Disorder (impaired communication and social interactions) Down Syndrome or trisomy 21 (genetic disorder causing developmental delays and physical disabilities) PANS/PANDAS (autoimmune conditions that interrupt neurological functions)

How will you identify students who needs special care? ›

What are some common signs that a child has special needs?
  • failing to give close attention to details or making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • not seeming to listen when spoken to directly.

What are the 21 types of disabilities? ›

  • Locomotor Disability. Leprosy Cured Person. Cerebral Palsy. Dwarfism. Muscular Dystrophy. Acid Attack Victims.
  • Visual Impairment. Blindness. Low Vission.
  • Hearing Impairment. Deaf. Hard of Hearing.
  • Speech and Language Disability.

What is the purpose of the epsen act? ›

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs, EPSEN, Act was passed in 2004 to ensure that children with additional educational needs could be educated in an inclusive setting and that all children would have the right to be educated in a mainstream school unless it would not be in the best interest of the ...

What is the importance of the epsen act? ›

The EPSEN Act provides for the education of children aged under 18 years with special educational needs. The purpose of the review is to ensure that legislation on education for students with additional needs is up-to-date, fully operational, and reflective of the lived experiences of students and families.

What are the main points of the Disability Act 2005? ›

In short, the Disability Act 2005 places a statutory obligation on public service providers to support access to services and facilities for people with disabilities. Under the Act, people with disabilities are entitled to: Have their health and educational needs assessed.

How is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act IDEA helpful in the implementation of inclusive education in the Philippines? ›

Under the IDEA, all children with disabilities are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least-Restrictive Environment (LRE). Some students are also entitled to Early Intervention (EI) and an Extended School Year (ESY). The law specifies how schools must provide or can deny services.

What is special education according to IDEA? ›

1) Special education means specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, including— (i) Instruction conducted in the classroom, in the home, in hospitals and institutions, and in other settings; and.

What is IDEA and why is it important? ›

IDEA is a US federal statute that governs the education of students with disabilities and related services. It was put in place to ensure that public schools serve the educational needs of students with disabilities by providing them with special education services.

How does the Education Act affect schools? ›

Through the new Schools Bill, the government will raise education standards across the country via a range of measures including supporting schools to join strong, multi-academy trusts, introducing registers for children not in school and giving Ofsted more powers to crack down on unregistered schools operating ...

Which are current provisions in the Education Act? ›

(1) Every child shall be entitled to compulsory basic state funded education. (2) Any parent who deprives their child the right to basic state funded education shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 6 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.”.

Why was the Education Act introduced? ›

Most importantly, it demonstrated a commitment to provision on a national scale. The Act allowed voluntary schools to carry on unchanged, but established a system of 'school boards' to build and manage schools in areas where they were needed.

Which federal provision requires children with disabilities provided with a free appropriate education? ›

The Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person's disability.

Which of the following pieces of legislation requires that children with a disability have the option of being educated in their neighborhood school? ›

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a piece of American legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs.

Which one of the following provides the best definition of special education? ›

Special education may be best described as a purposeful intervention designed to overcome or eliminate the obstacles that keep children with disabilities from learning. In other words, it is about providing children with disabilities with individualized plans of instruction to help them succeed.

What are 2 major laws or policies that influenced special education the most and why? ›

4 Special education laws that helped shaped the U.S. school system
  • The Education for All Handicapped Children Act. ...
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. ...
  • The Assistive Technology Act. ...
  • The Handicapped Children's Protection Act.


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