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Written Statement - Update on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill

Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language

In his Statement in Plenary on 28 June, the First Minister set out this government’s plans for the first year of our legislative programme. I am very pleased that an Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Bill, which will reform the current legal frameworks for supporting children and young people with special education needs (SEN) and learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD), will form part of our programme.

We want to transform the expectations, experiences and outcomes for learners with ALN. This process of transformation is already underway, through a comprehensive programme of wider reforms, but the introduction of legislation is a key step in the reform journey.

I am publishing today, a summary of responses to the consultation on the draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill, which ran between July and December 2015. This is in line with an announcement made by the former Minister for Education and Skills on 16 March 2016 that such a summary would be published by the new government following the Assembly election.

The responses to the consultation and feedback from the extensive engagement programme that ran alongside it were strongly supportive of the principles of our reforms. However, some concerns were of course also raised. Some of these reflected a desire by respondents to access a greater level of detail, others reflected misunderstandings of our intentions or the anticipated practical impact of our proposals, and some expressed direct concerns about specific aspects of the proposals. All feedback has been carefully considered and used to inform development of the legislation itself, the draft ALN Code and, crucially, the wider ALN Transformation Programme. I will say more about the Transformation Programme in due course.

The comprehensive programme of engagement undertaken during the consultation on the draft bill did not conclude at the end of the formal consultation period; it continues to be a priority. An expert practitioner group – the ALN Code Content Development Group – ran until April 2016 and has provided significant and valuable input in the process to develop the next iteration of the draft ALN Code. I expect this next version of the code to be made available during the passage of the ALN Bill through the Assembly to support the scrutiny of the legislation. We have also convened an ALN Strategic Implementation Group (ALN-SIG), made up of key delivery partners. The ALN-SIG is tasked with planning for transition to the new system, developing practice and processes to ensure effective implementation and subsequent monitoring of the ALN Transformation Programme.

I expect this engagement to widen further as we move forward with our transformation plans. I look forward to working collaboratively – cross-government, cross-party and cross-sector – to co-design and co-deliver a robust new system, which is supported by users and practitioners, sustainable for the long-term and that will have real positive impact to the benefit of our most vulnerable learners.