How the Local Authority (LA) should help
Local Authorities have legal duties to support children and young people with additional learning needs (“ALN”).
These duties are described in the ALNET Act 2018, the ALN Code Wales 2021 (the “Code”) and ALN Regulations 2021.
LA’s are responsible for learners with additional learning needs (ALN) from 0 to 25, ensuring they can access suitable education and/or training, including compulsory education and specialist post-16 education where necessary. LA’s delegate funding to schools to support children and young peoples with ALN.
Most Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for children with additional learning needs (ALN) will be developed by School or FEI’s. However, in the following circumstances the local authority (LA) will decide on the child or young persons ALN and prepare an IDP if appropriate:
- If a child is under the compulsory school age (under 5 years and not in a maintained school) parents and other health and social care professionals that work with the child can bring the child to the attention of the LA and ask them ‘to decide’ if the child has ALN and to prepare an IDP
- If a child or young person is’ Looked After’ the LA will be responsible for ‘deciding and preparing’ an IDP if required (S.17)
- If a child is attending a non-maintained school (not financially supported by the LA) and the parents have concerns that their child might have ALN, then the parents will need to contact the local authority for ‘a determination’ or an ALN notice
- If a child is educated other than at school (EOTAS) or is dual registered
- If a child ‘is detained’ (e.g. children or young people who are in a young offender institutions or secure children’s home) the local authority will be responsible
Local Authorities must also provide:
- Impartial, Information and Advice for Children, Young people and Parents
- Arrangements for Avoiding and Resolving Disagreements that are independent of those making decisions
- Access to Independent Advocacy services for those that require it
- An Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer (ALNLO) for planning for children under 5 years old and for their transition to school
The LA is also responsible for reviewing the ALN arrangements and the Additional Learning Provision (ALP) available in its area to ensure there is sufficient to meet the overall needs of all the learners with ALN in that area and that the ALP is effective.
A local authority’s duty to decide a child or young person’s ALN
When it ‘appears to’ a LA or is ‘brought to their attention’ that a child or young person may have ALN the local authority has a ‘duty to decide’ (ALNET (Wales) Act. 2018 (Section 13)
A ‘LA’ would be required to make a decision about a child or young person’s ALN which has been referred
- by a governing body
- or a child, a child’s parent or a young person has made a direct request to the local authority
- or a Local Health Board has made a referral (section 64.)
- or directed to do so by the Education Tribunal
The LA MUST make a decision unless one of the following circumstances apply:
an individual development plan (IDP) is being already being maintained for the child or young person
- the local authority has previously decided whether the child or young person has ALN and it is satisfied that the child or young person’s needs haven’t changed since that decision was made, or that there’s no new information that will alter that decision
- the LA is satisfied that the decision about the child or young person’s ALN is being decided by the school or FEI (section 11(1))
- the decision is about a young person who is an enrolled student at further education or no request in respect of the young person has been made to the local authority by the governing body under section 12(2)(a)
- or that the decision is about a young person (16 +) and the young person doesn’t consent to the decision being made
If you have questions, or need more information about the new ALN system, you can scroll down to read through our frequently asked questions, we’ve tried to cover lots of different aspects of the new system to make things clear for everyone
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve put together some questions and answers relating to the local authority:
How does a local authority ‘decide’ whether a child has ALN?
Where it is ‘brought to its attention’, or ‘appears’ to a local authority, that a child or young person may have ALN, the local authority MUST decide whether the child has ALN unless one of the following circumstances applies: (S.12)
- an IDP is already being maintained for the child.
- the local authority has previously decided the issue and is satisfied that the child’s needs have not changed materially since that decision and there is no new information which materially affects that decision.
The local authority(‘LA’) should designate an officer (the ‘designated co-ordinator’) to be responsible for coordinating the actions required to make that decision and, if an IDP is required, to be responsible for preparing it. (In reality these decisions are made by a panel of LA officers)
The ‘LA’ MUST record the date the issue is brought to their attention. They LA should record a summary of the issues and notify the child’s parent that it is deciding whether the child has ALN.
The LA could consider offering an initial meeting with the child and the child’s parent, to discuss the process. Providing impartial information and advice on the ALN process is a duty on the local authority.
‘LA’s’ must keep the parent informed, any decision must be given to the parent in a notification letter which MUST give:
- 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.
- Provide an indication of the likely timescale for the process.
When deciding whether a child or young person has ALN the LA will consider whether to request advice from an educational psychologist. The LA should do this if the advice is necessary to determine:
- the extent or nature of the ALN that the child may have, or
- the ALP called for by the child’s ALN.
- the appropriate placement for a child
The advice MUST include:
- any relevant information on the child’s learning difficulties or disabilities,
- how the learning difficulties or disabilities impact on the child/young person’s learning
- the additional learning provision appropriate for the child and how this will be provided
- whether the child already has any engagement with or support from other agencies
The definition of the new term ‘additional learning needs’ (ALN) is very similar to the current definition of special educational needs. The major difference is that it can be used for children and young people from 0 – 25.
The ALNET Wales Act 2018 add section says that a person has additional learning needs if they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for additional learning provision.
See section What is ALN? for the questions the LA must consider when making a decision.
Does the LA have a duty to maintain IDPs?
If a local authority decides that a child or young person has ALN then it must prepare and maintain an IDP for that child or young person.
However, the LA can also:
- prepare an IDP and direct the governing body of the school to maintain the plan
- direct the governing body of the school to prepare and maintain a plan.
If the ‘reasonable needs’ of a child or young person for additional learning provision cannot be met unless a local authority also secures additional learning provision, the authority must include a description of that other provision in the plan and ensure its provided.
The kinds of provision are —
- a place at a particular school or other institution
- board and lodging
(ALNET Act S.12 (1)(2a) (S.13(1))
Can a ‘LA’ reconsider school decisions on ALN?
YES. The law places duties on the LA ‘to reconsider school or college governing body decisions’, this gives a child, young person or a child’s parent to right to request reconsideration of the following governing body decisions:
- a decision made by a School about whether a child or young person has ALN
- a decision to review and revise a school/FEI IDP
- a school or FEI’s decision to cease to maintain an IDP
Reconsideration is the only formal way to challenge a decision.
The best course of action is to discuss any school decision on ALN with the school as soon as you receive the notification. Ask or a meeting to raise your concerns. Most disputes can be resolved at this early stage and be prevented from escalating.
The school must explain their decision let you know how they intend to meet your child’s needs if they will be met through the schools ‘universal provision’ and differentiated teaching. The ALN Code(12.14) (12.15) recommends that it could be helpful to offer an opportunity to the child and their parent to discuss the issue further.
If despite discussing your concerns with the school you are still unhappy you can request the LA reconsider the decision.
The LA has 7 weeks to reconsider the decision. (S26 Act)
Before it makes its decision, the local authority MUST inform the school of the request and invite representations from them.
If the LA decides to overturn the school decision, the previous school decision will then have no further effect.
The school will then be directed to prepare an IDP.
A request can also be made by the Child, Child’s Parent or young person and a Governing Body, that the LA should consider ‘taking over’ an IDP maintained by a school or FEI.
For further information see >
Reconsidering school decisions(link)
You can also contact SNAP Cymru and use the following template letters
Can a Local Authority reconsider and revise a school IDP?
YES. If a child young person or parent is unhappy with an IDP maintained by their school, or they feel that the IDP does not meet the needs appropriately, they should first contact the school to discuss their concerns.
They can also contact SNAP Cymru for information advice and support. Every attempt should be made to ensure the IDP is appropriate and any dispute is remedied early.
However, if a child, young person or parent remains unhappy with the IDP, they can ask the ‘LA’ to reconsider and revise the plan. (S.27(1)(b))
The ‘LA’ MUST consider the request and decide whether the plan should be revised or not.
If the LA decide ‘to revise the plan’, they should provide a copy of the IDP to the child, parent and young person to comment on the draft .
The LA can:
- direct (order) the school to revise the plan (S14.(1))
- revise the plan themselves and direct the school to maintain the plan (S.14(2))
- or decide to ‘take over‘ maintain the plan themselves. The IDP would then become a LA maintained IDP. (S26.(a)(b)
The LA has 7 weeks to reconsider the governing body maintained plan and prepare or order the school to prepare within this time.
If after considering the issue the LA decide ‘not to revise’ the plan, they should notify the parent and give reasons for their decision. This decision is appealable to the Education Tribunal Wales See Appealing ALN decisions
Can I request that a LA ‘take over’ a school or College (FEI) IDP?
YES. If you are unhappy about the contents of the IDP or feel the school or college maintained plan is unable to meet the child or young person’s needs, discuss your concerns with the School/College.
In many circumstances the school will be able to access additional or different resources and can easily revise the plan to include these changes.
You can discuss your concerns during the preparation of an IDP, as they emerge or following the review of an IDP.
There may for example, be been a sudden or unexpected change in circumstances (a child or young person’s needs may have become significantly more severe), or you feel that the school or college is unable to provide the adequate support or specialism your son or daughter needs.
The governing body of a school or college who is responsible for the plan may also feel there are circumstances where they will request the LA take over the plan. These circumstances can be where —
- the governing body considers that the child or young person has additional learning needs that may call for additional learning provision it would ‘not be reasonable for the governing body to secure’
- the extent or nature of the ALN can’t be adequately determined, or
- the governing body cannot adequately determine the additional learning provision
Examples of this might be:
Where the child or young person has a low incidence or rare condition that requires specialism that the school can’t provide.
Or to meet the child or young person’s needs, the school requires regular advice and support from external specialists which is over and above what can be accessed by the school.
The child or young person requires equipment which can only be used by one pupil or cannot be reused or is beyond the reasonable resources of the school.
Or the child or young person requires very intensive daily support which cannot be reasonably funded or secured by the school’s budget.
The following people can request that a LA considers whether to ‘take over‘ responsibility for a governing body maintained IDP. (S.28 Act)
- A child, or young person
- the child’s parent, or
- the governing body of a school or FEI
The local authority MUST decide whether it should ‘take over’ responsibility for maintaining a governing body (School or college) IDP.
If the school or College makes the request, the ‘LA’ MUST inform the child and their parents or young person. They can invite representations from the child parent and young person and ask for further information to be shared with them.
If a parent, child or young person makes the request, the ‘LA’ MUST inform the governing body of the request and invite representations from the governing body.
The ‘LA’ may decide to take over responsibility for maintaining a plan if it feels it should be revised (S. 28(6)).
If this happens the LA MUST notify the child or young person, parent, and the governing body of their decision and the reasons for any decision.
If they decide to ‘take over the plan’, the IDP will become a LA maintained plan and the LA will be responsible for preparing the plan, securing the additional learning provision in the plan and reviewing the plan.
The LA has 7 weeks to decide
How does a LA ask for support from Health?
Local authorities and further education institutions (FEIs) can:
- request that the health service considers whether there’s a relevant treatment or service likely to be of benefit in addressing the learner’s Additional learning needs
If there is, the health service must secure (provide it) .(S20(5)S21(5)Act)
The Health Authority has 6 weeks to respond to the request.
Also where the Health Service believes that a child has (or probably has) ALN, they must bring this to the attention of the appropriate local authority, if they believe that is in the child’s best interests (
The statutory Designated Education Clinical Lead Officer (DECLO), appointed by the Health Board, will work with the LA to develop and coordinate interventions.
For further information, see What can I expect from Health?
What if I disagree with a ‘LA’ decision regarding my child or Young Person?
In the first instance, you should ask for the matter to be reconsidered by the LA.
You should explain why you are unhappy with the decision and what you would like to see changed.
If you feel there is further information that hasn’t been considered you should share this with them. You can ask to meet with the local authority to discuss your dispute and to try and resolve any concerns.
The Additional Learning Needs Act (Wales) requires all local authorities to provide independent disagreement resolution services to help when parents or young people do not agree with the local authority, schools or colleges about the additional learning needs provision.
Dispute resolution services are independent of the local authority. The aim of the disagreement resolution services is to help young people, parents, local authorities and others who are responsible for making additional learning needs provision, reach an agreement that is in the best interest of the child or young person.
Using dispute resolution is not compulsory and does not affect a child’s, parent’s or young person’s right to take an appeal to the Tribunal. do be aware of the timescales for appealing.
They can be used in parallel, without affecting the tribunal decision. SNAP Cymru provides this service across Wales.
For further information or to request a service, see Dispute resolution
If you have chosen to use the dispute resolution process and are still unhappy, you have a right to appeal to the Education Tribunal for Wales.
The Tribunal is independent and will consider appeals when parents disagree with the local authority’s decisions about their child’s ALN.
The school or (FEI) want to ‘to cease to maintain’ (end) my child’s IDP, can I ask the ‘LA’ to reconsider this decisions?
Yes. If the school or college has decided to ‘cease to maintain (end the plan) they must notify the child or young person and the child’s parent of his or her right to request the local authority to reconsider the matter (S.32(2)(3) Act)
Once the child parent or young person receives the notification that their IDP is being ended, they have 4 weeks to write to the LA asking that they ‘reconsider the School decision’ (Reg.12, ALN Wales Regulation 2021)
The request must be made to the local authority responsible for it to decide whether the governing body’s duty to maintain the plan should cease (end or not).
The ‘LA’ has 7 weeks to reconsider the decision.
Whilst the decision is being made the School or FEI MUST continue to maintain the IDP.
The local authority MUST notify the governing body and the child, parent or young person of their decision, and the reason for the decision.
If the LA decides that the plan should be continued, the governing body MUST continue to maintain the plan.(S.32 (4) Act)
The LA can also decide that the plan should not be maintained and that the plan should end. (S.32(4)Act)
If you, your child or the young person disagrees with the LA decision, you can make an appeal to the Education Tribunal Wales for them to determine the outcome.
Template letter – requesting reconsideration of a decision to cease to maintain an IDP
See Appealing to the Education Tribunal.
What is an 'ALN Notice'?
A Local authority to give an ‘ALN notice’. A local authority may only give an ALN notice in exceptional circumstances.
The local authority may, of its own volition and at any time, give an ALN notice to a child and the child’s parents.
The effect of the ALN notice is that the ALN system applies to the child or young person on the date of the notice and the SEN system ceases to apply on that date. As a result, the duties provided for in the ALN Act an all other related laws, including the ALN Code, apply from that date.
The purpose of allowing a local authority to give an ALN notice is to enable a local authority to move a child to the ALN system outside of their mandated year.
a child’s needs may have increased beyond the SEN provision that can be delivered in a mainstream school. Without the power to give an ALN notice, the local authority would not be able to make a decision about whether the child has ALN and, where required, prepare an IDP.
In addition, it is not possible for a school or a PRU to request that a local authority undertake a statutory assessment or issue a statement for a child captured by Commencement Orders 5 and 6. Because of this, it would not be possible for the local authority to place the child in a special school as the old law requires that a child attending a special school should have a statement.
Children captured by Commencement Order 5, and their parents, can request the appropriate local authority move them to the ALN system earlier than planned by requesting an ALN notice, and following such a request the appropriate local authority must give an ALN notice.