You will probably have heard that there are proposed changes to the way children and young people’s special educational needs (SEN) will be identified, assessed and met in Wales.

The special educational needs (SEN) reforms in Wales are now a little under a year away from their introduction in 2020.  The Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Educational Tribunal Act was passed in January 2018 and will begin to be rolled out from the start of the new school year in September 2020. (Further information on implementation )

What are the reforms?

There will be some significant changes. For instance, as the name of the act suggests, the term ‘special educational needs (SEN)’ will be replaced by ‘additional learning needs (ALN)’. This in turn means the SENCOs will be known as ALNCOs. School/Early Years Action, School/Early Years Action Plus and Statements will disappear and every child with recognised ALN will eventually be issued with a new statutory document called an Individual Development Plan (IDP). This is not to be confused with individual education plans (IEP) which will also be phased out. Unlike statements, which stop when a young person leaves school, IDPs will continue up to 25 years of age if the young person goes onto further education.  The Welsh Government has produced an overview of the new system and has compiled answers to some frequently asked questions: together they will give you a good idea of how the Welsh Government expect things to work.

What happens next?

As the transition to the new system will involve major changes for local authorities, schools and further education colleges it will be introduced gradually and the Welsh Government has produced guidance explaining the timescales involved. The Welsh Government is also drafting a new code of practice which was issued for consultation in Dec 2017. This is an extremely rather long document. However, it is very important as it sets out in detail how the ALN system will work in practice and the Welsh Government would like feedback from parents and carers as well as professionals so we will let you know when it is issued.  The Code is likely to be finalised in Dec 2019. For more information on the code

Each region has an appointed Transformation lead who will play a:

    • Critical role in overall implementation strategy
    • Ensure LA’s are prepared to deliver the new ALN system.
    • Support and challenge to local authorities, schools, early years settings and further education institutions
    • Coordinating role in the roll-out of implementation training on the Act, awareness-raising and facilitating improvements in multi-agency working.

Transformation Leads – Margaret Davies, North Wales region; Huw Davies West Wales region; Liz Jones Central South; Tracey Pead  South East Wales; Chris Denham Further Education

 In the meantime several concerned families have contacted us recently having been told their LA is no longer ‘writing statements for children’ in their area. Prior to the Bill becoming law the Welsh Government has repeatedly said:

“I want to stress, though, that, for the time being, all the responsibilities and requirements connected with the existing legislative framework for special educational needs remain in place.  I will be writing to local authorities to remind them of this.”  (This includes statutory assessment and producing statements for children and young people who require them)  Minister for Education

Many Local Authorities have told parents

 ‘We’re not doing anything because the Government’s bringing out an ALN Bill. We’re going to have independent development plans. Everything’s going to change. So, we’re not going to statement anything.’ 

The Minister has written to each Local Authority to ensure they act within the law and ensure they continue to follow current requirements and guidance to Statutory Assess a child where the child has learning difficulties which require SEN provision to be made for them.  Please contact SNAP Cymru if you require independent advice.

If the reforms are to be a success, then schools in partnership with parents need to be at the heart of the implementation process. Transition from one system to another and replacing statements with IDPs, in particular has the potential to cause anxiety.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us through our helpline 0845 1203730 helpline or directly to 01554778288.

The key changes proposed will include:

  1. The term ‘Additional Learning Needs’ and ‘Additional Learning Provision’ will replace Special Educational Needs and Special Educational Provision.

The new legislation will set out the precise definitions. The definition of ALN will include all of those currently regarded as having SEN (i.e. children and young people supported through School/Early Years Action, School/Early Years Action Plus and with statements of SEN).  In addition, the term will also be used for young people up to the age of 25 who are currently said to have Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD)

ALN provision will not change significantly from the current definition of ‘special educational provision’ – it will apply to provision which ‘is additional to,or otherwise different from, the educational provision made generally for children or young persons of the same age other than in special schools’.

  1. Extending the age group 0-25

The current system covers children to age 16 or age 19 (depending on post-16 provision. i.e. whether they stay in school or attend FE). The new system will support children and young people from 0-25.

  1. Statements of SEN and Learning Difficulty Assessments (section 139a assessments for those in Year 11 currently) will be replaced with an Individual Development Plan.

This will provide statutory protection for children and young people with Additional Learning Needs across Wales.  The new COP will include a detailed structure and minimum standards for an IDP and this is welcomed since there have been concerns regarding the over-simplification and a lack of specificity in an IDP

            To be effective we feel an IDP should contain the following:

  • the child or young person’s identified needs;
  • the agreed outcomes for the child or YP
  • the additional provision required to meet those needs;
  • an Action Plan that sets out how, when and who will deliver the agreed interventions and how the outcomes of interventions will be measured;
  • information that is sufficiently robust to form a legally enforceable document.
  • success criteria and review dates

Independent schools will be required as part of their registration to demonstrate that it can provide the required type of additional learning provision.

  1. The statutory duty for preparing and implementing an IDP will rest with local authorities, EY’s Schools and Further Education Colleges  to ensure that there is accountability for the delivery of ALN provision.

Schools, Colleges and PRU’s will be required to use their ‘best endeavours’ (to do all they possibly can) to ensure that the additional learning provision set out in a child or young person’s IDP is provided.  This means that Welsh Government will expect local authorities to have effective governance arrangements in place to deliver, monitor and review their ALN duties.  Evaluation and scrutiny will be particularly important when approx 85% of ALN funding is being delegated to schools

  1. A new ALN Code

 There will be a new ALN Code  setting out the detail of the new legal framework. This will provide detailed guidance for professionals who work with children and young people with ALN. The Code must be accessible to families and accurately reflect what they expect of professionals who work with their children. It should be clear and contain mandatory requirements and be easily enforceable.

  1. Services will need to work together collaboratively and flexibly in order to ensure that children, young people and their families and carers receive coherent, well co-ordinated support which helps them achieve positive outcomes
  1. The proposals recommend arrangements for LA’s to provide access to information and advice for families ‘as they see appropriate’ and require the Welsh Government to set out guidance on disagreement resolution arrangements to provide effective solutions to disagreements about additional learning provision between children and young people, or their parents and school or local authorities.This would include advocacy and support for children and young people.  
  1. The right of appeal to the ALN Tribunal against:
  • a decision not to put an IDP in place;
  • a refusal of a request to review an IDP;
  • the content of an IDP,  including the description of the child or young person’s needs or the educational provision required to meet those needs;
  • a failure to make available the provision identified through the IDP;
  • the school named or the type of school named in the IDP
  • a refusal to review and IDP or to make changes following a review
  • a failure of the LA to take over responsibility for an IDP following a request to do so
  • a decision to cease to continue an IDP
  • all the above would be open to children and young people 0-25 and their families

Every child and young person deserves an education system that responds to their individual learning requirements and we are hopeful that the new proposals for ALN go some way to meeting these aspirations.