Getting Help from School
Most of the time a child or young person’s difficulties can be recognised and their needs met from within the school’s resources. Every maintained school is given money from the Local Authority for all the children who attend, and extra money to help those children or young people who are having difficulty with their learning.
All schools consider the individual learning needs of their pupils and teachers will provide differentiated teaching and learning. Teachers may provide some or all of the following as part of the usual support in school:
- adding more steps to a task
- visual prompts to help children organise themselves
- apps for learners to work at their own pace
- allowing extra time for tasks to be completed
- catch up groups or small group work with specific support for maths and literature
- wellbeing support
Some children will require more or different help than that provided universally for all children.
About 20% of all children have additional learning needs at some time – that is 1 in every 5 children.
All maintained Schools in Wales have legal duties to support children and young people with additional learning needs (“ALN”).
Nurseries, schools and colleges have clear duties under the ALNET Act 2018 and the ALN Code Wales 2021 (the “Code”). The code contains guidance on what they should be doing to identify and support children and young people with ALN.
In the new ALN system, Schools have a duty ‘to decide’ if a child or young person has Additional Learning Needs and to give them the support they need to help them learn.
The ALN Code says that the “trigger” for providing help will be a concern about the child’s progress.
Whilst Teachers are often the people who decide that a child needs some help, the Code says that anyone who knows the child and who is concerned can let the school know. This recognises that Parents and Carers and other professionals often have vital information than can confirm or add to the schools view.
All schools must have an additional learning needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo). The ALN Act makes having an additional learning needs co-ordinator statutory (a legal requirement) in schools, where previously having an SENCo was non-statutory.
The ALN Code says that schools should try to recognise a child’s difficulty early, so that the child can have the right kind of help at the earliest possible opportunity.
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 getting help in school:
‘I am not happy with the help that my child is getting at school’
The first step is to talk to the school and ask for a meeting. Schools usually have procedures for contacting or arranging a meeting with a member of staff.
If you’re worried about your child’s learning talk to your child’s teacher. Every school also has a teacher with particular responsibility for children with additional learning needs. This person is called the additional learning needs coordinator. (ALNCO) They will take your problem seriously and will try to help you sort out any problems as quickly as they can. Always make an appointment – you have a better opportunity to be listened to than trying to catch a busy teacher during school time.
If this is difficult, put the request in writing.
Before asking for a meeting with the school it’s useful to think about what’s going wrong and what you want the school to do about it.
What you can do to prepare:
- Make a note of the issues or questions you have
- Think about what would make it better or make you happier
- Have information ready about your problem or question.
Attending meetings about your child’s education can be a very positive experience but it can also be upsetting or frustrating for help see our information on Preparing for Meetings
If your child already has an Individual education plan (IEP) an Individual development plan (IDP) or a statement you can also raise your concerns at review meetings which should happen several times each year or ask for an early review.
If your child doesn’t have a plan in place and you think they would benefit from one, you can ask for a meeting with the school to discuss this.
The school should:
- Take your problem seriously
- Involve you and your child and consider your views
- Explore all the issues and concerns
- Gather information and clarify the situation
- Explore options
- Review your child’s progress
- Give you information and support if it is needed to help you take part in any of the decision-making or complaints processes
- Give you the details of the local information and advice or dispute resolution services
- If necessary prepare and develop an Individual Development Plan and put things in place for your child if they need additional learning provision
- Where possible, make suggestions for discussion about what might help.
- But if you have any concerns that the school have not addressed – tell them.
- Chase things up with the school if the agreed action hasn’t happened.
If you have tried meeting with the school but are still unhappy, put your concerns in writing. Focus on your child’s needs and the impact of the current situation on their learning and well-being. Make it clear that you want to continue to work together, but that there are things that you are still worried about. Explain what these things are and what you would like the school to do about them
How does the school decide if a child has ALN?
The law says that every maintained school in Wales has a ‘Decision Making Duty’ on ALN. (under section 11 of the Act)
When a school is ‘made aware’ or feels that a child or young person at the school may have ALN it ‘must decide’ whether that child or young person does have Additional Learning Needs unless:
- an individual development plan (IDP) is already in place for the child
- a decision has already been made that the child or young person does not have ALN and the child or young person’s needs have not changed
- if the young person is over 16 and does not consent (agree) to the decision being made
Parents are often the first to be aware of their child’s needs and they can bring this to the schools attention. Other professionals can also bring this to the schools attention.
The school MUST record the date when the concern is first brought to their attention, they should also record the list of concerns.
The school must tell the child and the child’s Parent/Carer that it is deciding whether the child has ALN. They MUST notify the parents of this.
It would be best practice for the school to hold a meeting with the child and the child’s parent or young person, to discuss the process and to ask for any information they may have to help make the decision.
The school can ask for advice from other services such as health and educational psychology or CAMHs to help them decide.
A designated person usually the Additional learning needs coordinator (ALNCO) will be responsible for co-ordinating what’s needed for the school to make the decision.
For more information see:
The school has decided my child has ALN- what happens next?
If the school has decided that your child or young person has ALN, they MUST prepare an Individual Education Plan (IDP) them.
Before the IDP is completed, the school should give you an opportunity to comment on the draft plan. You should raise any concerns as soon as possible.
Once prepared the school MUST give you a copy of the finalised plan, promptly and in any event before 35 school days. (S22(1) Act)
When you receive a copy of the IDP the school MUST also give you a notification letter which will include the following.
- contact details for the school
- information about how to access impartial information and advice about
- ALN and the ALN system
- details of avoidance and resolution of disagreements and independent and advocacy services
- rights to request that the Local Authority ‘reconsiders the plan’ or ‘takes over responsibility for maintaining the plan’
- contact details for the responsible local authority
What if a school decides that you child ‘does not have ALN’?
The school must consider carefully whether your child has ALN or not, they should use the ‘staged test’ recommended in the ALN Code chapter 2 (See also ‘what is ALN?’ ) add link
If a school decides that your child does not have ALN, they MUST ‘notify’ (tell) you of the decision in writing within the 35 school day period.
The school must:
- Inform you of the decision and the reasons for the decision
- Give details of where you can get impartial information and advice
- Inform you and your child about their ‘right to request that the Local Authority(LA) Re-consider the school decision’
- Provide contact details for the responsible Local Authority(LA)
- Give the details of the LA’s arrangements for Avoiding and Resolving Disagreements – (SNAP Cymru provides this service in most LA’s in Wales)
- Details of the LA’s Independent Advocacy Service
The notification letter should also describe what the school will do to ensure your child’s needs (which are not ALN) are met. This might include differentiated classroom teaching strategies like those mentioned above.
If you disagree with this decision, you may want to request a meeting with the school to discuss the decision further and to be given a better picture of what the school based support will look like.
You are also entitled to request that the Local Authority reconsiders the schools decision.
A request for reconsideration of the school decision should be put in writing to the Local Authority.
Speak to our advisors on 0808 801 0608 or send an enquiry on our contact page and you’ll be contacted by an advisor www.snapcymru.org/contact
For more information see – requesting reconsideration
Can I request an IDP for my child?
A request for an IDP can be made by a parent, professional, or the learner themselves:
- For children aged 0 – 5 the request is made to the Local Authority unless the child attends a mainstream school.
- For school aged children, the request is first made to the school.
On receiving a request the school ‘must decide.’ If after considering the evidence the school decides the child does have additional learning needs, the school must prepare an Individual Development Plan (IDP)
The IDP will lay out the additional learning provision (ALP) that a child needs, but can also include provisions by healthcare services, social services and any other agencies involved in their care and support.
If you are worried about your child progress, ask to speak to your child’s teacher or ALNCo to discuss your concerns.
You can also contact SNAP Cymru on 0808 801 0608 or www.snapcymru.org/contact/
How long does it take to prepare an IDP?
The time taken to prepare an IDP will depend on the nature of a child or young person’s needs.
For children and young people with less complex needs preparing the IDP will be simpler and quicker.
An IDP for a child or young person with severe, complex or low incidence needs (that are occur rarely or in low numbers) is likely to need specialist input and advice and include much more detail on a wider range of interventions. This will usually take longer to prepare.
The ALN Code says that a school MUST prepare an IDP ‘promptly’, and in any event within 35 schools days from it being brought to attention of the school or from when the school believes the child or young person has ALN.
No child or young person with ALN should go for longer than a school term without an IDP being put in place (a school term normally lasting about 13 weeks).
What are the School duties for a child or young person with a Local Authority (maintained) IDP?
A school Governing body must take ‘all reasonable steps’ to help the Local Authority maintain a plan and to secure the additional learning provision in it.
Before naming a school in an IDP a Local Authority must consult the governing body of the school and the Local Authority for the area in which the school is located.
A school can only be named if the LA is satisfied that the child or young persons’ best interests can be met at the school and it is appropriate for the child or young person to be provided with education at the school.
The limits on infant class sizes does not apply in these circumstances. If the Authority name a school in a plan then the governing body of the school must admit the child.
For more information see:
Where a child or young person has been identified with ALN, schools should:
- Decide and develop the IDP within 35 days
- Share the IDP with the Child and Parent
- Make arrangements for informing all staff who are involved with the pupil know about those needs;
- Involve the ALNCo in advising teaching staff on appropriate teaching approaches to use in relation to the pupil with a view to meeting the child’s ALN;
- Make appropriate adjustments to the school environment to improve the child or young person’s access to education;
- Provide appropriate additional and/or different support for the child or young person from the resources delegated to them from the LA, including access to input from external specialists;
- Monitor the impact of support provided for the child or young person and alter it if it becomes apparent that this would be appropriate.
- Review the child’s IDP annually.
- The school should work in partnership with parents, carers, children and young people to prepare an IDP for ALN pupils.