Changes to the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) system reached a new milestone this spring when the ALN Code and Regulations were passed by the Senedd on 23 March. Along with the ALN Act 2018, the code and regulations will create the new statutory (legal) ALN system in Wales.

From September 2021 the ALN system will come into force over a three-year phased implementation period.

To prepare for this, 4 commencement orders have been published which bring into force the elements of the new law which will apply from September the 1st 2021.

Who will the new system apply to from September?

Children of compulsory school age (5 – 16) and below who have special educational provision via school action or school action plus and who attend maintained schools in:

  • Nursery Years 1 and 2 and 
  • Year 1
  • Year 3
  • Year 5
  • Year 7
  • Year 10);
  • Children who are detained;
  • All children before Sept 1st regardless of the year group or setting – (including EOTAS, an independent school or who are electively home educated) who are new to ALN
  • Who are dual registered
  • Who are ‘Looked After’


“Right to ask to transfer to new law”

In addition, any child in any year group who on 1 September 2021 who has identified special educational needs, or the child’s parent, can make a request to the appropriate person that the new law applies to that child.   The school or LA must reply within 10 days.

The Welsh Government anticipates that the same number of children or young people in schools will have ALN as SEN at present, but that the new term will reduce stigma and mark a clear break from the old system.   

The implementation is not an opportunity to ‘streamline and reduce’ the provision currently made for children

Children and parents will receive a notice of transfer to the new system. Schools will issue the notice which will trigger the new system for a child. Schools may also send a notice to say the child’s needs can be met within the school based provision and that they will not be transferring to the new system. Many parents are beginning to have these conversations with their schools, but formal notification will be sent from Sept 1st onwards or at natural review points throughout the year.

What are the key questions to ask when thinking about whether a child or young person has ALN?

  1. Do they have a learning difficulty or disability?
  • Does the child or young person have a learning difficulty or disability (whether the learning difficulty or disability arises from a medical condition or otherwise) which calls for additional learning provision.
  • A significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • Does the child or young person have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 which prevents or hinders him or her from making use of facilities for education or training of a kind generally provided for others of the same age in mainstream maintained schools or mainstream institutions in the further education sector

2. Does that learning difficulty or disability call for additional learning provision (ALP) to be made?

  • For a child aged three or over, ALP means educational or training provision that is ‘additional to, or different from‘, that made generally for others of the same age range. (Educational provision generally made available in mainstream maintained schools could be for example, ‘catch-up provision or differentiated teaching strategies’ more generally- these would not be considered ALP)

These decisions should be made collaboratively with parents.  If the school decides that the child or young person does have additional learning needs, or where it has been directed to by the LA, it must prepare and maintain an individual development plan (IDP). In addition, it must secure the ALP described in the IDP.

If a parent disagrees with the decision, they should explain to the school why they disagree. If this can’t be resolved the parents can request that a school decision is reconsidered by the local authority. Impartial information advice and support will be made available for children, young people and parents.

Children & young people not included from September 1st

The following young people and children (from the year groups above) are not included in the current orders and will not be included in the new system from September 1st  2021

  • A young person with additional learning needs who is over compulsory school age, or a young person who has identified special educational needs and the local authority is assessing
  • Any child who has special educational needs and the a local authority is currently undertaking a Statutory Assessment
  • Where a local authority decides not to make a statement following an assessment or writes a Note in Lieu or offers an IDP and the parent and young person has a right of appeal (time limits apply)
  • Where a local authority has decided to cease to maintain a statement and the parent and young person has a right of appeal
  • Where an appeal to the Tribunal has been brought but not finally decided;
  • Where the tribunal has ordered that the local authority make and maintain a statement

All other pupils with additional learning needs with existing non-statutory plans IEP’s and Statements will transfer over the following two years. However, no new request for Statutory Assessment will be accepted, new requests will be made under the new ALN system. Details of how this will be confirmed by the WG over the next month.

The Welsh Government will be publishing a new implementation guide in June or July 2021, which will set out in detail the arrangements for the first year of implementation and provide an overview of the arrangements for the second and third years.  Information for parents is also being developed.

You can find out more about the ALN transformation program and guidance on the current SEN system here including a frequently asked questions and ALN transformation programme guide.

If you are concerned about any aspect of the implementation to the new system do discuss this with your school.

Information, advice and support

The Additional Learning Needs Act 2018 says local authorities must provide impartial information, advice and support about additional learning needs for children, young people and parents/carers. In most areas of Wales, SNAP Cymru will continue to provide impartial information and support.

Our main aims are to give you:

  • the skills to confidently share your views, make decisions and develop good relationships with professionals
  • the knowledge you need to understand your situation and take whatever action you need
  • We do that by giving you clear and straightforward information about your options and refer you to further specialist support where required

Disagreement Resolution / Mediation

Sometimes it is difficult to reach an agreement. Local authorities must provide access to , Independent Disagreement Resolution.

This service is provided by SNAP Cymru in all areas of Wales.  The service can help young people, parents, schools, and the local education authority when there is a dispute about ALN decisions and ALN provision.

An experienced mediator will meet with parents and school or local education authority staff. The mediator does not take sides but will listen and find out what has been happening. The aim is to find a workable solution that everyone can agree with.

Using the service is completely voluntary and all parties need to agree to participate; no one has to use it if they do not want to. The service provides a positive opportunity for communication which is voluntary, confidential and free.

Young people or parents who want to know more about this service can speak to SNAP Cymru on 0808 801 0608 or email: or for referral and more information on: DRS  –  

You can contact SNAP Cymru through our helpline on 0808 801 0608 or by completing the ALN enquiry form on the contact page of this website.