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Written Statement - £20m package of support for Additional Learning Needs

Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language

The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been introduced to the National Assembly for Wales. The Bill aims to create a unified legal framework for Wales, which will put learners – and their parents and carers – at the heart of the process to identify and plan how to meet their needs.

The Bill is just one part of our determination to deliver a fully-inclusive education system for learners in Wales. A system where needs are identified early, addressed quickly and all learners are supported to reach their full potential. Planning will be flexible and responsive and professionals will be skilled and confident.

My priority is to support all partners to successfully implement and deliver the new system. I am therefore today announcing a new comprehensive package of funding.

Some of the funding to implement the new system – £10.1m – has been allocated as part of our wider commitment to provide an additional £100m to improve school standards over the course of this Assembly term. Our aim is to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people – children and young people with additional learning needs make up almost a quarter of our school population; we cannot raise standards without targeting resources and improvement activities towards this group of learners.  

But schools are only part of the picture – all those with a role in the new system will be supported to effectively implement the new requirements and practices. The new funding will be supplemented by an investment directed from existing budgets – I expect this to be a further £10m over the remaining Assembly term.  Whilst this is subject to confirmation of budgets at the next spending review, protecting this funding will be a priority.  

This £20m funding package builds on investments we have already made in transforming additional learning needs provision in Wales. We have invested in the roll out of person-centred practice, which is a central pillar of the new system and is having a positive impact in schools and further education settings.

In November, I announced a new ALN innovation fund. Innovation projects are underway across Wales and developing new, collaborative approaches, which aim to improve multi-agency working for the benefit of learners with additional learning needs. We will also be working with health boards to develop the Designated Education Clinical Lead Officer (DECLO) role, which will support effective planning and collaboration between agencies.

We will continue to work with key partners on the details of our implementation programme through the strategic implementation group and its expert groups. The programme will focus on workforce development and capacity building as well as awareness-raising across all sectors; there will also be specific work with local authorities to ensure they are prepared for and supported through the transition period.  

We want to ensure the new system is introduced in a way which ensures learners with additional learning needs are able to access the benefits of the new system as quickly as possible, balanced against the need to ensure services and professionals are adequately prepared to deliver it.

I will provide Assembly Members and stakeholders with further details about the implementation programme as it develops.