Annual reviews exist to make sure a child is getting the right help from their statement of special educational needs. The parents, pupil, education authority (EA), school and other professionals involved in a child's education review the child's progress, and what provision is detailed in their statement.  

Here you will find a full explanation of the timeline for a review and the process, including who does what at which point.

Reviews of this kind must happen at least once a year. They are important opportunities for a parent to share their views and negotiate changes to a child’s statement, whether or not they would like to change their child's school.

This process may vary slightly for children aged 14 and over and those not attending school
 

Why does a statement need reviewing?

An annual review is part of a process of continuous assessment which looks at the child’s progress to see whether a statement is still needed, or whether it should be stopped. If a statement is still needed, the process helps work out what changes should be made.

Timeline for the review

  1. Parent may request an early annual review.
  2. EA informs principal of date of annual review. Meanwhile, the principal, relevant professionals and family collect information.
  3. Principal invites reports from parents, the EA and anyone else they think appropriate.
  4. Principal copies reports to all and invites to meeting, giving at least two weeks’ notice.
  5. Review meeting (must include rep from Careers Service and from local health and social services authority if pupil aged 14 or older).
  6. Principal writes review report and sends to EA with copies to all who attended meeting, including parents, within two months of EA notice.
  7. Parents and others able to write to EA with own versions of meeting.
  8. EA reviews the statement in the light of the report and any other information or advice that they consider relevant and writes to parents informing them of the decision.
  • Outcome 1: EA proposes amendment to statement. Parents have right of appeal to Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST).
  • Outcome 2: EA proposes not to change statement. Parents do not currently have right of appeal (this will change when new legislation is implemented).
  • Outcome 3: EA proposes to cease to maintain statement. Parents have right of appeal to SENDIST.

How the review process works

Collecting information

The EA starts the annual review process by writing to the principal of your child’s school and asking them to submit a review report within two months.

To help prepare the report, the principal will ask you and any professionals that they, together with the EA, consider appropriate to submit written advice on:
  • your child’s progress towards meeting the objectives set for them in the statement
  • your child’s progress towards meeting the targets set for them in the IEP
  • any modifications or exclusions made to the curriculum for your child
  • the appropriateness of any substitutions to the curriculum
  • whether the statement is still appropriate
  • any amendments needed to the statement
  • whether the EA should cease to maintain (stop) your child’s statement. 
Your child should also be encouraged to give their own views.

The annual review meeting

The principal will also invite you to a review meeting before the review report is due. This meeting should include: 

  • the EA officer
  • your child’s teacher(s) or SENCO
  • and any professionals considered appropriate, for example an educational psychologist or a representative from your local health and social services authority.

At least two weeks before the meeting, the principal will send copies of all the written advice received to you and others invited to the meeting. You will be asked before or during the meeting for written comments on it.

You can bring a friend, relative or adviser with you to the meeting to give you support and take notes on your behalf. Make sure you tell the principal in advance that this person will be attending.


The review meeting normally takes place at your child’s school and is normally chaired by the principal or a nominated representative.

The review meeting will consider the matters you submitted advice on, as well as any significant changes in your child’s circumstances since the statement was first made or last reviewed. The meeting will also recommend any steps to be taken, including whether the EA should amend or cease to maintain the statement. 

Outcomes of the review meeting

The review meeting may recommend that your child’s statement is amended if:

  • he/she has significant new needs which were not previously recorded on the statement
  • he/she no longer has significant needs which were previously recorded on the statement
  • the provision should be amended to meet your child’s changing needs and targets specified at the review meeting
  • your child should change schools either when starting a new phase of education or if his/her needs would be better met at a different school.

If you don’t agree with the recommendations being made, you can make your views known.

At the end of the meeting, the principal should explain what happens next. He or she should make it absolutely clear that although the meeting can agree recommendations, the EA will make the final decision with regards to changes (if any) that will be made to the statement.

The principal's report

The principal writes a report after the meeting. They should include in their report the recommendations from the meeting (all views should be recorded including where there is disagreement).

This report should be sent to the EA within two months of the EA initiating the annual review process. A copy of the report must be sent to you and all those concerned.

EA reviews the statement

The moment of review happens at the end of the process. The EA reviews your child's statement in light of the principal’s review report and other information or advice received. The EA may decide to maintain the statement, amend/not amend the statement, or cease to maintain the statement. 

The EA must write to you informing you of the decision taken and their reasons. A copy of this must be sent to the school. 

Outcomes of the review

If the letter from the EA proposes to amend the statement, you will be sent an amendment notice and given 15 days to respond.  When the EA issues an amended final statement after the 15 day consultation period, you will be given the right to appeal to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) within two months. 

If the EA decides that your child no longer needs a statement, you will also be given the right to appeal to SENDIST.

If the EA decides not to make any changes to the statement following a review, there is no right to appeal against this decision. This will change when new legislation is implemented. 

How often does a review take place?

A review must take place within 12 months of the beginning of the statement or the previous review. You may wish to request an early review of your child’s statement if, for example:

  • your child’s needs have changed significantly
  • the provision in Part 3 or school in Part 4 is not meeting your child’s needs, or 
  • you are concerned that your child may be expelled from school. 


The EA does not have to comply with your request for an early review. If your request is refused you may wish to speak to our Education Rights Service about other action you may be able to take.

Very young children should have their statement informally reviewed at least every six months. Informal reviews should complement the statutory annual review.

How do I work out if it is overdue?

In order to work out if a statement review is overdue, you have to know when the statement was finalised or the date the previous review took place. 

Remember, as a parent, you have four opportunities to influence a review. 

  1. Once you have been informed by the school that an annual review is to take place, you can write to the principal and EA asking for any relevant person to be invited to write a report and attend the meeting.
  2. Before attending the review meeting. You should request the reports of all relevant people attending and you should receive these two weeks before the meeting.
  3. By making a list of ideas, requests and questions before the meeting, you can tick items off the list as they are answered throughout the meeting.
  4. After receiving a copy of the principal's review report, you can influence the EA's final decision by submitting your own comments in writing. 

Starting primary or secondary school

If your child is due to start or change school, this transition should be carefully considered at the review meeting during their last year of their current school or nursery. 

The meeting can also be brought forward to allow enough time for necessary arrangements to be made. 

Clear recommendations as to the type of school your child will require at secondary stage should be given. It will then be possible for you to visit all proposed provisions and consider the options carefully.

The EA has to consider your preference but can still name a school they think can meet your child's needs. When the statement is amended to name a school, you will be given the right to appeal to SENDIST.

Read more on choosing a school in Northern Ireland

Children not attending school

If your child has a statement but does not attend school (for example, they are in hospital, suspended or expelled) then the annual review must still go ahead and the process is largely the same.

The EA will prepare the report and arrange the review meeting and there may also be a wider range of professionals involved, depending on your child’s needs and circumstances.

Children aged 14 and over

The first annual review after your child’s 14th birthday and subsequent reviews are similar to that of previous years. But the focus should be on your child’s needs as they move into further education, training or employment. 

This meeting should involve agencies and professionals who will play a major role during your child’s post school years. Representatives from your local health and social services authority and the Careers Service must be invited.  

The Careers Service will help ensure that all further education and training opportunities are considered and identify any specific targets to ensure that independence training, personal and social skills and other aspects of wider curriculum are fully addressed during your child’s last years at school.

A review report will be produced as normal, but a transition plan will also be prepared. This should draw together information from a range of professionals within and beyond school to help plan for your child’s transition to adult life, including leaving school and starting college or university

Transition plans

Your child’s transition plan should consider the following questions from individuals and agencies.

School

  • What are your child’s curriculum needs during transition and how can the curriculum help them play a role in the community, make use of leisure and recreational facilities, assume new roles in the family and develop new educational and vocational skills? 
  • What other agencies should be approached to ensure a smooth transition?

Professionals

  • How can close working relationships with other agencies be developed to ensure effective plans for your child’s transition and which new professionals need to be involved? 
  • Does your child have any special health or welfare needs and what specific independence skills eg travel and managing money, need to be developed during their last school years? 
  • How can information from children’s services to adult services be best transferred and is education at school or a college after the age of 16 appropriate?

Your family

  • What are your expectations for your child’s adult life and what can you contribute to help them develop personal and social skills? 
  • Will you have new care needs and require help, aids or adaptations?

Your child

  • What information will they need to make informed choices?
  • What local advice and advocacy services are available?
  • How can they be encouraged to contribute to the transition plan and make positive decisions about their future? 
  • What are their hopes and aspirations for the future and how can they be met? 

The answers to these questions should form the basis of a transition plan focusing on their strengths, areas of need and covering all aspects of their development.

Clear responsibility for different aspects of their development should be allocated to specific agencies and professionals. Representatives from your local health and social services authority and the careers service should be actively involved in your child’s plan.

Further help from our charity

Further help for parents trying to get an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service. Specific help for appealing to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal is available from our Tribunal Support Line.  

Useful documents and reading

Code of practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs. Department of Education (1998).

Supplement to the code of practice. Department of Education (2005).

Special Educational Needs: A guide for Parents Department of Education (1997).

Useful contacts

Department of Education
Tel: 028 9127 9279

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) 
Tel. 028 9072 4887


Last reviewed: 15 November 2016.