Reform of the special educational needs system in Wales passed a significant milestone on 23 March when the new Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Code and regulations were approved by the Senedd.
Why is this important?
Although the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act was passed in 2018, it’s taken time to work out exactly how it will work and how local authorities can implement it. The Welsh Government have announced plans for commencement of the Act from September 2021, with the new system being introduced in a phased way.
The Act requires the Welsh Ministers to prepare, consult on and publish a Code on Additional Learning Needs. The Additional Learning Needs Code gives rules and advice to help local authorities and others do what the law tells them to.
The Code will be for nurseries that receive money from the local authority, staff at schools and colleges, local authorities and health services.
The new Code of practice includes mandatory requirements and guidance to public bodies and other providers of education and training must have due regard, i.e. they must not ignore. Local authorities will retain responsibility for ensuring Individual Development Plan (IDPs) are developed for those children and young people requiring one and for ensuring the provision it recommends is put in place.
What happens next?
Following the Senedd’s approval of the Additional Learning Needs Code and its regulations the Welsh Government will now publish a commencement order – meaning the Code will come into force on 1 September 2021.
The legislation will have a phased implementation, with the new system introduced from September 2020. From then on, new learners with Additional Learning Needs will be supported by the new system, and learners using the old system (SEN) will transition over a three year period.
What is the new law?
The Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 replaces the current Special Educational Needs (SEN) framework with a reformed system. The new law covers children and young people with an additional learning need up to the age of 25.
The Act makes provision for universal, statutory Individual Development Plans for all children and young people with Additional Learning Needs, and integrates the separate arrangements that currently exist for pupils in schools and post-16 students in colleges.
Together these support the three overarching objectives of the 2018 Act which are:
- a unified legislative framework that supports all children of compulsory school age or below with ALN, and young people with ALN in in school or further education;
- an integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring which facilitates early, timely and effective interventions; and
- a fair transparent system for providing information and advice, and for resolving concerns and appeals.