An ambitious law to create a bold new approach to supporting learners with additional learning needs (ALN) will today be introduced to the National Assembly for Wales.
If passed, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (ALNET) Bill will completely overhaul the system for supporting pupils with ALN, affecting every classroom in Wales.
The Bill will place the learner at the heart of that process and will make the system far simpler and less adversarial for those involved, a common complaint of the current system.
The Bill is part of a wider programme aimed at transforming the additional learning needs system to secure successful futures for all learners.
Some of the main aims of the Bill are:
- to replace the terms ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) and ‘learning difficulties and/or disabilities’ (LDD) with the new term ‘additional learning needs’
- to create a single legislative system to support children and young people aged 0 to 25 who have ALN, instead of the two separate systems currently operating
- to do away with the system of statementing and create a single plan (the individual development plan (IDP)) to replace the existing range of statutory and non-statutory SEN/LDD plans for learners, ensuring equity of rights regardless of the learner’s level of need or the education setting they attend
- to ensure the views of learners and parents are always considered throughout the planning process to ensure all parties view it as something which is done with them rather than to them and that the child or young person is at the centre of everything,
- to encourage better collaboration between agencies, so that needs are identified early and the right support is put in place.
Nearly a quarter of learners in Wales will experience some form of additional learning need during their early years or education. The current legislative framework for supporting them is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago, which is widely recognised to no longer be fit for purpose.
Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies said,
“I believe that everyone in Wales should be able to access education that meets their needs and enables them to participate in, benefit from and, hopefully, enjoy the learning experience.
“Last year just 23% of learners with ALN achieved 5 good GCSE’s including Maths and Welsh or English compared to 59% of all pupils. We must improve on this.
“The current system is simply no longer fit for purpose and this Bill will bring the entire legislative framework into the 21st century, enabling us to effectively support learners with ALN throughout their educational journey.
“This is a landmark moment for Welsh education and is the result of months and months of work with our partners, including teachers, parents, local government, the NHS, and third sector. I am grateful to them all for their help in getting us to this stage. Their valuable contribution has given us a far greater understanding of the challenges we face and the need to be flexible as we manage change.
“It is important to remember that this is far from a peripheral issue; it affects a quarter of learners in Wales and the improvements we are proposing here can lead to better educational outcomes for all of our learners. Getting things right for our ALN learners will mean getting it right for all learners, so it’s about whole system improvement and, therefore, is a cornerstone of our ambitious programme of education reform in Wales.”
The Minister also said that while wholesale reform is necessary, we have worked closely with others to ensure these important changes are operationally sound and can be delivered in partnership within a reasonable time frame. Significant support, including £2.1m recently announced to fund innovation and partnership working across Wales, will be put in place to assist delivery partners to transition from the current to new systems.
“The ALNET Bill is only one aspect, albeit a fundamental one, of the wider package of reforms necessary in Wales. Our ALN Transformation Programme also focuses on skills development for the education workforce, to deliver effective support to learners with ALN in the classroom, as well as more effective access to specialist support, information and advice. At the heart of all of our reforms is a focus on inclusion; putting children and young people at the centre, and ensuring they are supported to reach their full potential.”