Getting help in the Early Years
Early Years providers in Wales offer every child the opportunity to benefit from quality early years experiences and activities in the local community.
They should all be committed to the principle of inclusion and to providing the right support early for every child.
Getting support for your child with Additional Learning Needs and/or Disabilities as early as possible is important to see the best outcomes for your child. This helps education and other professionals to provide the support a child needs from the start, to help them get the most from their education.
It is particularly important in the early years that there is no delay in giving any necessary support. Delay at this stage can give rise to a loss of self-esteem, frustration in learning and to behaviour difficulties.
EY’s providers must have arrangements in place to support children with Additional Learning Needs and/or Disabilities. These arrangements should include a clear approach to identifying and responding to ALN.
If a parent or carer has a concern about a child’s needs the EY’s provider will take account of any information shared with them when making decisions about the child’s support.
Parents have unique and expert knowledge about their child and should be fully involved from the start in any discussions and decisions about their child’s additional learning needs (ALN).
EY’s settings also have duties to disabled children under the Equality Act 2010 and must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where necessary so that a disabled child is not put at a disadvantage. More children are covered by the Equality Act description than many imagine.
Disabled children and those with ALN are covered by two different laws the ALNET Act 2018 and the Equality Act 2010, but there is a significant overlap between both.
Not all disabled children will have ALN, but as many as 3/4 of disabled children will also have additional learning needs.
Children who have a range of health conditions, for example: epilepsy, diabetes or more severe forms of asthma and eczema, are likely to be covered by the definition of disability but may not have additional learning needs. They may have an Individual Health Plan instead.
If you have questions, or need more information, you can scroll down to read through our frequently asked questions, we’ve covered many different topics to make things clear for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together a number of questions and answers relating to Individual Development Plans:
“I’m really worried and the Nursery is concerned about my child’s progress. What will happen next?”
All children are different. The first thing to do is arrange a meeting with the Early Years setting to discuss concerns and work out the best ways to support your child.
Many children make progress with the help available within the EY’s setting and wont require additional learning provision.
If there are concerns the child may have additional learning needs the child should be ‘brought to the attention of the Local Authority’.
The Local Authority has a ‘duty to decide’ whether a child has ALN and to prepare and maintain Individual Development Plan (IDP) for any child with ALN.
Parents of children aged 0-5 who do not attend a nursery or school can ask the local authority NOW to assess if the child has ALN and, if required, provide an IDP.
See What is ALN and What is an IDP?
Who can bring the child to the attention of the LA?
The Local Authority is responsible for IDPs for children under compulsory school age (under 5) who are not in maintained schools.
Children can be ‘brought to the attention’ of the Local Authority in a number of ways.
For example by a:
- a child’s Parent/Carer
- a provider of childcare or non-maintained nursery education
- a health provider (see section 64 of the Act)
Concerns can be raised through the child’s EY’s setting (if the child attends one) or directly with the Local Authority.
Parents’ are often the first to recognise that their child has ALN. Local authorities and non-maintained nursery providers should be open and responsive to any concerns brought by parents and take account of any information provided.
Decisions about children under 5 who attend a nursery or reception class in a maintained school will be made by the school.
How should I bring my child to the attention of the Local Authority?
Do talk to your child’s setting, they will be able to offer support and advice. Most EY’s settings have a person responsible for additional learning needs who can help you. Very often they can arrange the right support in the setting. Despite this you can bring your child to the attention of the LA to ask them to decide on your child needs.
Parents of children aged 0-5 who do not attend a nursery or school can ask the local authority now to assess if the child has ALN and, if required, provide an IDP.
It doesn’t matter how concerns are raised with the Local Authority, some local authorities may have an email or a ‘ website portal’ where concerns are submitted, but parents are advised to write to the Local Authority formally asking them to ‘decide whether their child has ALN or Not.’ (S.13 (1) Act)
Chapter 11 of the ALN Code for Wales 2021 gives information on Local Authority duties in relation to children under compulsory school age (5 years ) who are not at a maintained school in Wales and chapter 11 gives information on those children under 5 in a maintained school ( in nursery or reception)
We have a template letter you can use, but do chat to our advisors on 0808 801 0608 if you need help.
How long will the Local Authority take to consider and ‘to decide’ whether my child has ALN?
The Local Authority must record the date the concerns are brought to their attention
The Local Authority must make a decision on a child’s ALN and notify the parents, the EY’s setting or health professional ‘promptly’ or before the end of the period of 12 weeks.
The Local Authority MUST send the a notification letter to the child’s parent which includes the following: (S.9 of the Act)
- contact details for the Local Authority
- the Local Authority’s arrangements for information and advice about ALN and the ALN system
- arrangements for independent disagreement resolution and advocacy
- information about the right to appeal to the Tribunal if they disagree with the LA decision.
How does my Local Authority make ALN decisions about EY’s children’s?
The law says that Local Authority MUST have an officer who coordinates the Local Authority’s responsibilities for children under compulsory school age (under 5) who are not attending maintained schools. (Usually those under 3) (most Welsh children attend EY’s nursery and reception classes at a maintained school from 3 – 5)
The designated officer is known as the :
‘Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer’ (‘ALNLO’) (S13(1)(2)of the Act)
The ALNLO is responsible for coordinating all the Local Authorities duties for this age group such as:
- making sure there are sufficient resources available
- that the right people are involved in the preparation, maintenance and review of IDPs,
- that training, expertise and information is available for families and professionals
The LA MUST decide whether the child has ALN unless one of the following circumstances applies:
- the child already has an IDP
- or the Local Authority has previously made the decision on the child’s ALN and is satisfied that the child’s needs have not changed since that decision and there is no new information which affects that decision.
The Local Authority MUST tell parents or carers that it is deciding whether a child has ALN, they may offer a meeting to discuss the process.
The Local Authority MUST ask for advice from an educational psychologist when they are making decisions on an EY’s child’s ALN.
The sort of advice the Local Authority will gather in order to make a decision could include information on:
- the extent or nature of the ALN that the child may have
- the additional learning provision that may be appropriate for the child
The designated co-ordinator will usually arrange a meeting or meetings, as appropriate, with the parent and, if appropriate, the child, to discuss the child’s needs and if required, prepare an IDP for them. The Local Authority will also look at whether the child is having support from other agencies
If the local authority decides that the child has ALN, it MUST prepare an IDP for the child within 12 weeks
What if the Local Authority decides my Child ‘does not have ALN’ - what can I do?
If your LA decides your child does not have ALN, they MUST write to you and set out all the reason for their decision. (S13(3)Act) and (S9)
This notification letter must include the following:
- contact details for the Local Authority;
- information about how to access the Local Authority’s arrangements for providing people with information and advice about ALN and the ALN system.
- details of the Local Authority’s arrangements for the avoiding and resolving disagreements
- information about the right to appeal to the Tribunal against the decision.
If you disagree with the decision you should speak to the Local Authority as soon as possible to discuss the decision further.
The notification letter should also include details of any action the Local Authority will take to ensure the child’s needs are met, even though they don’t have ALN.
You can contact SNAP Cymru on 0808 801 0608 for independent advice and support or for Dispute Resolution if you disagree.
If you are unable to resolve your dispute you can make an Appeal to the Education Tribunal Wales and ask them to consider the decision. (S.70Act)
There is an 8 week time limit to make an appeal, however this is extended by a further 8 weeks if you use dispute resolution
My child has ALN, how is the IDP developed?
If the Local Authority decides that your child has ALN, it must prepare an Individual Development Plan.
If your child attends a nursery or reception class at a mainstream school, the Local Authority may insist the school prepares and maintains (provides the support and reviews the plan) the IDP.
The Local Authority has 12 weeks to decide and prepare the IDP.
Parents should be fully involved in preparing the IDP. The law says they have the right :
- share their views about their child’s needs
- have their views and where possible their views taken into account
After completing the IDP, the parent should have an opportunity to comment on a draft and to raise any concerns as soon as possible. The Local Authority should consider any concerns and act upon them appropriately, which may be to update the draft IDP, or explain decisions or other matters further.
Once prepared, the Local Authority MUST give a copy of the IDP to the child’s parent.
Once the Local Authority prepares the IDP for a child they are responsible for maintaining (providing the support detailed in the IDP and for reviewing the IDP
If the IDP specifies that ALP should be provided in Welsh, the LA or NHS body where applicable MUST take all reasonable steps to ensure it is provided in Welsh.
What if we can’t agree?
If you disagree with the Local Authority decision you should speak to them as soon as possible. Contact them and ask for a meeting to discuss the decision.
What you can do to prepare:
- Make a note of the issues or questions you have
- List your concerns and what you’re unhappy about the decision
- Think about what you’d like to see changed
- Have information or evidence ready to support your views
- Contact SNAP Cymru for independent advice to discuss options and help you prepare
You can also use the SNAP Cymru Dispute Resolution Service which is available in all local authorities in Wales.
The service can help parents and the local education authority when there is a dispute about ALN decisions and ALN provision.
The SNAP Cymru mediator does not take sides but will listen and find out what has been happening. The aim is to find a solution that everyone can agree with.
If you are unhappy about the IDP developed, you can ask your LA to change it. You can do this when the plan is prepared, or at a review meeting.
If there has been a sudden or unexpected change in circumstances (for example if a child’s needs have become significantly more severe), you could ask for the LA to carry out an early review of your child’s IDP.
If you are still unhappy with the plan prepared, or if the LA refuse to make the changes you want you can appeal to the Education Tribunal for Wales.(S.70)
See Appealing to the Education Tribunal Wales
If you do decide to appeal to the Education Tribunal, you should also let your LA know as soon as possible and continue to discuss your concerns. SNAP Cymru can also help you continue to resolve your disagreement
For more information about this service can speak to SNAP Cymru on 0808 801 0608 or email: DRS@snapcymru.org or for referral and more information on: DRS https://www.snapcymru.org/mediation/
What happens to my child’s IDP when they move to a school?
Once the child attends school, the Local Authority can direct (tell) the school to maintain the IDP.
All the transition arrangements for the child should be recorded in the IDP (section 3C.)
However, they should not do so if the IDP includes provision the LA should provide. For example if the IDP describes:
- a place at a particular setting that includes board and lodging, this could be a residential school
- if the child is dual registered
- the child has become looked after
You should arrange to visit the school which will give you the opportunity to meet the teaching staff and consider how they will respond to your child’s learning and development needs. the school will also have a fuller picture of your child’s needs before they start.
My Child is disabled what can I expect from the nursery?
Your child is protected under the Equality Act 2010
The definition of disability is wider than many may think, and so includes a greater number of children in early year’s settings.
- Must make reasonable adjustments for disabled children. This duty is anticipatory, this means a settings must look ahead and anticipate what disabled children might need and what adjustments might need to be made to prevent any disadvantage
- Must promote equality of opportunity for all children
- Must not discriminate against, harass or victimise disabled children
- Must not discriminate directly, indirectly, or for a reason arising in consequence of a disability
If your child is disabled you should speak to the setting and share all your information and concerns. Do ask them to make reasonable adjustments for your child.
If you feel your child is being treated unfairly because of their disability, or because of something arising from their disability, this may be disability discrimination.
If you require support please contact our SNAP Cymru discrimination helpline. (please leave a message and your contact detail if asked to do so and an advisor will return your call)
Discrimination Helpline: 0300 222 5711