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

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

On 6 July 2015 I published for consultation the draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill (‘the draft Bill’). To support the consultation, I published in September a draft Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Code and an outline of the possible timescales for implementation of the proposed new system.  

An extensive programme of engagement was undertaken during the consultation period, which ended on 18 December. This included two major multi-agency events in North and South Wales, a series of workshops specifically with children, young people and their carers and a programme of informal, targeted sessions with key stakeholders from across the public services and third sector.  264 written responses were received, 158 people attended the formal consultation events and 267 children, young people and carers participated in the engagement workshops.

In line with normal practice, my officials will prepare a summary of the consultation responses for publication.   Given the proximity to the National Assembly elections in May, however, it will not be published beforehand.  Instead, it will be published by the next Government following the elections.  The introduction of a Bill into the National Assembly will be a matter for the next Government to determine, and I believe that the new Government will find it useful to be able to consider the responses before a summary is published.  

Nevertheless, I want to put on record this Government’s continued dedication to a fully inclusive education system in Wales, and I want to reaffirm our commitment to the reforms.  As such, work to refine the draft Bill, develop the ALN Code and supporting materials, create a detailed implementation plan and support the workforce to gain the skills they need to meet the needs of all learners more effectively is ongoing.  The responses to the consultation, the feedback gathered during wider stakeholder engagement and the findings of the Children, Young People and Education Committee from their pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill are being used to inform this work and the wider package of reforms.  

I am grateful for the sustained commitment from stakeholders and multi-agency partners to work with us to develop our reforms.  My officials are continuing to work with key experts and professionals through the Code Content Development Group, which is considering the development of the ALN Code.  We have also convened a cross sector ALN Strategic Implementation Group.  The Group will be tasked with developing an appropriate and workable implementation plan for the reforms, producing transition guidance to support those that will be responsible for operating the new model and acting as “champions of change” within their organisations and sectors and more widely.  In addition, we have established a Post-16 Working Group to look specifically at the design and implementation of the post-16 aspects of our reforms. Alongside this, we are working cross-government to progress a package of wider work and engagement specifically relating to health.

As stated in my Written Ministerial Statement on 6 July, I want to see a Bill introduced for formal scrutiny early in the new Assembly.  Although this will, of course, be a decision for the next Government, I hope that we can continue to build political consensus to bring forward a fully supported, robust and operationally sound piece of legislation as soon as possible.