Additional Learning Needs is changing in Wales
What are the reforms?
There will be some significant changes. For instance, as the name of the act suggests, the term ‘special educational needs (SEN)’ will be replaced by ‘additional learning needs (ALN)’. This in turn means the SENCOs will be known as ALNCOs. School/Early Years Action, School/Early Years Action Plus and Statements will disappear and every child with recognised ALN will eventually be issued with a new statutory document called an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Unlike statements, which stop when a young person leaves school, IDPs will continue up to 25 years of age if the young person goes onto further education. The Welsh Government has produced an overview of the new system and has compiled answers to some frequently asked questions: together they will give you a good idea of how the Welsh Government expect things to work.
The key changes proposed will include:
- The term ‘Additional Learning Needs’ and ‘Additional Learning Provision’ will replace Special Educational Needs and Special Educational Provision.
The new legislation will set out the precise definitions. The definition of ALN will include all of those currently regarded as having SEN (i.e. children and young people supported through School/Early Years Action, School/Early Years Action Plus and with statements of SEN). In addition, the term will also be used for young people up to the age of 25 who are currently said to have Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD)
ALN provision will not change significantly from the current definition of ‘special educational provision’ – it will apply to provision which ‘is additional to, or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children or young persons of the same age other than in special schools’.
- Extending the age group 0-25
The current system covers children to age 16 or age 19 (depending on post-16 provision. i.e. whether they stay in school or attend FE). The new system will support children and young people from 0-25.
- Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments (section 139a assessments for those in Year 11 currently) will be replaced with an Individual Development Plan.
This will provide statutory protection for children and young people with Additional Learning Needs across Wales. The new COP will include a detailed structure and minimum standards for an IDP and this is welcomed since there have been concerns regarding the over-simplification and a lack of specificity in an IDP
To be effective we feel an IDP should contain the following:
- the child or young person’s identified needs;
- the agreed outcomes for the child or YP
- the additional provision required to meet those needs;
- an Action Plan that sets out how, when and who will deliver the agreed interventions and how the outcomes of interventions will be measured;
- information that is sufficiently robust to form a legally enforceable document.
- success criteria and review dates
Independent schools will be required as part of their registration to demonstrate that it can provide the required type of additional learning provision.
- The statutory duty for preparing and implementing an IDP will rest with local authorities, EY’s Schools and Further Education Colleges to ensure that there is accountability for the delivery of ALN provision.
Schools, Colleges and PRU’s will be required to use their ‘best endeavours’ (to do all they possibly can) to ensure that the additional learning provision set out in a child or young person’s IDP is provided. This means that Welsh Government will expect local authorities to have effective governance arrangements in place to deliver, monitor and review their ALN duties.
- A new ALN Code
There will be a new ALN Code setting out the detail of the new legal framework. This will provide detailed guidance for professionals who work with children and young people with ALN. The Code must be accessible to families and accurately reflect what they expect of professionals who work with their children. It should be clear and contain mandatory requirements and be easily enforceable.
- Services will need to work together collaboratively and flexibly in order to ensure that children, young people and their families and carers receive coherent, well co-ordinated support which helps them achieve positive outcomes
- The proposals recommend arrangements for LA’s to provide access to information and advice for families ‘as they see appropriate’ and require the Welsh Government to set out guidance on disagreement resolution arrangements to provide effective solutions to disagreements about additional learning provision between children and young people, or their parents and school or local authorities. This would include advocacy and support for children and young people.
- The right of appeal to the ALN Tribunal against:
- a decision not to put an IDP in place;
- a refusal of a request to review an IDP;
- the content of an IDP, including the description of the child or young person’s needs or the educational provision required to meet those needs;
- a failure to make available the provision identified through the IDP;
- the school named or the type of school named in the IDP
- a refusal to review and IDP or to make changes following a review
- a failure of the LA to take over responsibility for an IDP following a request to do so
- a decision to cease to continue an IDP
- all the above would be open to children and young people 0-25 and their families
Every child and young person deserves an education system that responds to their individual learning requirements and we are hopeful that the new proposals for ALN go some way to meeting these aspirations.