Additional Learning needs, often referred to as ‘ALN’, is a new term used to describe learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for a child to learn compared to children of the same age. Approximately one in five learners in Wales have Additional Learning Needs (ALN).

All children may experience challenges with their learning at some point and for most children, these difficulties overcome with support from teachers and home.  However, children with ALN are likely to need extra or different help to be able to learn.

Some children may have ALN because of a medical condition or disability, other children may have ALN without a diagnosis or disability.  Children are not considered to have ALN just because their first language is not English or Welsh.

The definition of ‘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 (Part 2, Chapter 1)  (Chapter 2 ALN Code)  says:

A person has additional learning needs if he or she has a learning difficulty or disability (whether the learning difficulty or disability arises from a medical condition or otherwise) which calls for additional learning provision.

Importantly, the definition of ALN covers learners whose learning difficulty or disability that arises from a medical condition.

A child or young person would not have ALN if their lack of progress or learning difficulties can be addressed through differentiated teaching of the kind that is usually available in schools or colleges.

Additional learning needs (“ALN”) can affect a child or young person’s ability to learn. For example, someone’s ALN might affect their:

  • reading and writing
  • ability to understand things
  • behaviour or ability to socialise and communicate
  • concentration levels
  • physical ability

Deciding ALN or NOT?

There are two questions to ask when deciding whether a child or young person has ALN and these should be considered together

1. Do they have a learning difficulty or disability?

A child or young person has a learning difficulty or disability if:

  • they have significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of others of the same age, or
  • they have a has 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.
  • A child under compulsory school age has a learning difficulty or disability if he or she is, or would be if no additional learning provision were made

(S2 (2)(a)of the Act) (Chapter 2 ALN Code)


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

(S3(1)Act) (Chapter 2 ALN Code)

Additional Learning Provision for over three’s means educational or training provision that is additional to, or different from, that made generally for others of the same age .  This is a wide definition, and could cover a wide range of things, for example:

  • needing regular one-to-one support
  • physical, communication or sensory support
  • communicating through sign language
  • needing small class sizes with specialist support
  • requiring support from a specialist teacher

ALP is described as provision which is ‘additional to, or different from’, that made generally for others of the same age in mainstream maintained schools.

This is a national comparison of ALP extended to all Wales and not just the particular school or area.  This benchmark has been included so individual schools and LA’s cannot rely on local provision or policy when deciding whether a child has ALN or not.  If a child has ALN they should have an IDP irrespective of which school , county or region of Wales they live.

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then the child or young person has ALN.   

Children and young people with ALN  are entitled to extra support with learning at nursery, school or college and are entitled to an Individual Development Plan (IDP)

For a child under three, ALP means educational provision of any kind.

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

Every child and young person is different and each child or young persons need will be considered individually.

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 some questions and answers in relation to What is ALN/ALP?:

I’ve been notified my child has ‘Has ALN’ and will have an IDP, what can I expect?

If the school, PRU or college decides that the child or young person does have additional learning needs, or where it has been directed to by the LA or the Education Tribunal,  it must prepare and maintain an individual development plan (IDP).  In addition, it must secure and provide the Additional Learning Provision (ALP) described in the IDP.

The School or FEI has 35 days to decide and prepare the plan.

For more information > See What is an IDP?

Where a particular kind of ALP is to be made in Welsh, the governing body MUST take ‘all reasonable steps’ to secure this.

The plan must be prepared and maintained unless a young person does not consent.

The school or College  must designate a person to be responsible for co-ordinating the actions required to make that decision and, if an IDP is required, to be responsible for preparing it. This could be the Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCo.)

The date which the child or young person’s possible ALN is brought to the attention of the school should be recorded along with a summary of the reasons.

The school or FEI must notify the child and the child’s parent that it is deciding whether the child has ALN and include contact details for the school and information about how to access the local authority’s arrangements for providing people with information and advice about ALN and the ALN system. 

They must also consider offering an initial meeting with parents to discuss the process (Chapter 22 of the ALN Code for more details about meetings).

 If the governing body considers that the child or young person has ALN that may call for ALP that it:

‘wouldn’t be reasonable for the Governing body to secure, or the extent of and nature of the ALN and ALP can’t  be adequately determined by the Governing body, it may refer the case to the local authority rather than prepare an IDP themselves’

For example,

A child may have a rare condition which requires specialism that the school can’t provide or to meet the child or young person’s needs they require regular advice and support from external agencies which is over and above that which can reasonably be arranged and accessed by the school.

The child requires equipment which can only be used by one pupil or cant reused or is beyond the resources of the school. Th e child requires very intensive daily support which can’t be funded or secured by the school budget.

In this case the governing body ask the Local Authority to decide.  The governing body can refer this to the LA under section 12 (1)(2)(a)of the Act).

The LA will have 12 weeks to consider and respond

What happens if a school or college decides that my child doesn’t have ALN?

If a decision is made that the child or young person ‘does not’ have ALN,  the governing body making the decision MUST notify the child or young person and their parents of that decision and the reasons for it.

The school or college MUST send a notification letter saying the child does not have ALN and does not require an IDP.  The notification letter (or email) MUST set out the decision and the reasons for it and include the following detail:

  • Contact details for the school
  • How to access impartial information advice and support
  • Details of the disagreement resolution service and independent advocacy available
  • Details on how to request that the LA reconsider the school /college decision
  • Contact details for the local authority

If you are unhappy with the school decision, you should request a meeting with the school to discuss your concerns as soon as possible.

You should ask them to describe how they intend to meet your child’s learning difficulties needs that ‘are not ALN.’  This is particularly important if your child has received special educational needs support in the past and you feel the child’s needs have not changed.

The school should describe how they intend to support your child through ‘universal provision’ i.e. the provision offered to all children and young people.

If you are still unhappy with the school decision you should ask the LA to reconsider it. You can use our template letter to request this.

Asking the Local Authority is the only formal way to challenge a school decision and is the first step to an appeal to a tribunal if you remain dissatisfied.

SNAP Cymru provides impartial information and advice and dispute resolution services in all areas of Wales.  Please contact us to discuss any concerns if you disagree with a school decision in an atempt to prevent disputes from escalating. 


Further information:

What if I disagree?