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

Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language

I have introduced the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill (“the Bill”), with its Explanatory Memorandum, to the National Assembly today, 12 December 2016.

The Bill proposes a complete overhaul of the system for supporting children and young people with additional learning needs, which will affect nearly every early years, school and further education setting in Wales.  

Around a quarter of learners in Wales will have some form of additional learning need during their education. The current legislative framework for supporting them is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago.  

The Bill builds on what works well in the current system, whilst targeting directly the concerns with it.  It outlines a bold new approach for supporting learners with additional learning needs; an approach that is fit for an ambitious, 21st century Wales in which the learning of all children and young people is prioritised.

The Bill will place the learner at the heart of the process and make the system far more equitable, simpler and less adversarial for those involved. It will:

  • create a single legislative system to support children and young people aged 0 to 25 who have additional learning needs, instead of the two separate systems currently operating;
  • replace the terms special educational needs and learning difficulties and/or disabilities with the new term – additional learning needs;
  • do away with the system of statementing and create a single statutory plan – the  individual development plan – to replace the existing range of statutory and non-statutory plans for learners, ensuring equity of rights regardless of the learner’s level of need or the education setting they attend;
  • ensure the views of learners and parents are considered throughout the planning process so that all parties view it as something that is done with them rather than to them, and that the child or young person is at the centre of everything; and
    encourage better collaboration between agencies, so that needs are identified early and the right support is put in place.

This is a landmark moment for Welsh education and is the result of extensive work with our partners, including practitioners, parents, children and young people, local government, the NHS, and third sector.  

However, legislation is not the complete answer.  That is why the Bill is part of a wider programme aimed at transforming the additional learning needs system to secure successful futures for all learners. Our Additional Learning Needs Transformation Programme includes a comprehensive suite of both legislative and non-legislative workstreams.

The impact of these reforms is not confined to children and young people with additional learning needs.  This is not a peripheral issue; rather it is fundamental to our broader vision for education in Wales – one of inclusion, ambition and high-standards.  Transforming the additional learning needs system aligns directly with the vision set out in a Curriculum for Wales – one of a genuinely and fully inclusive system that recognises the importance of learner-centred approaches and teacher assessment, which supports the learning needs of all children and young people.

We now move into the next phase of delivering this wholesale reform – the Assembly process – and I look forward to working with colleagues from across the Chamber to deliver a robust and ambitious new legal framework to ensure our most vulnerable learners are supported to reach their full potential.  This is an aim I know we all share and is one we have a duty to make a reality.

I will make an oral statement on the Bill to the Assembly tomorrow, 13 December 2016.

Details of the Bill are available on the National Assembly for Wales website – www.assembly.wales.