Education law in Wales – An update on the changes for additional learning needs

A Sense resource centre student
A Sense resource centre

Education law for children and young people in Wales has remained the same for more than 30 years – despite widespread changes in the sector during this period.

Back in 2001, research into provision for children with special educational needs (SEN) was conducted by the Wales Audit Office. It revealed widespread dissatisfaction with approaches to assessment, the process of developing a statement, the allocation of resources to support children with SEN, and the procedures used by schools and local authorities to ensure that SEN provision is effective.

This system – deemed by many as unfit for purpose back then – remains in place almost a decade and a half later.

Introducing the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill

The Welsh Government wants to change the system so that all children with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) have an Individual Development Plan (IDP). This will replace all statutory and non-statutory learning plans in schools and further education settings, and will be available for children and adults (in further education) between the ages of 0 to 25.

The new system will encourage improved collaboration and information sharing between agencies. This is essential to ensure that needs are identified at an early age, and that the right support is put in place to enable children and young people to achieve positive outcomes.

The Bill, which will be introduced to the Welsh Assembly before Christmas 2016, also stresses the importance of increasing children and young people’s involvement – and argues that learners’ views should always be considered as part of the planning process, along with those of their parents.

When will the system change?

Plenty of debate will take place before the Bill becomes law. In the meantime, schools and local authorities must still comply with the Education Act 1996 and continue to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice for Wales. This means that parents can still request a statement, which continues to be the legal document that outlines current support needs.

Sense is playing an important role in the process. Back in October 2015, we teamed up with National Deaf Children’s Society to collect your thoughts on proposed changes to the system. In October of this year, we met with the new Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language, Alun Davies AM, to put forward these views and describe what’s important in terms of supporting people with multi-sensory impairments and complex needs.

We are also part of the Third Sector Additional Needs Alliance (TSANA), which is working with the Welsh Government to make any necessary amendments following the release of the Bill in December 2016.

The timetable for change

  • The Bill will be introduced to the National Assembly for Wales before Christmas 2016.
  • The Bill will be subject to scrutiny by an Assembly Committee, which will then either agree or disagree to the general principles of the Bill, or make recommendations for amendments. Sense will work with the TSANA to support the Committee to make amendments.
  • Once the Bill has been agreed and passed by the National Assembly for Wales, it will be submitted for Royal Assent. On receiving Royal Assent the Bill will become an Act of the Assembly, and the new law may commence (estimated autumn 2017).

If you would like further information or are concerned about the changes, please get in touch: angie.contestabile@sense.org.uk

Angie Contestabile

Author: Angie Contestabile

Policy & Campaigns Officer for Wales

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