Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
The White Paper on our legislative proposals for Additional Learning Needs (ALN) was issued for consultation on 22 May 2014. The consultation closed on 25 July 2014, having received 215 responses.
The consultation sought feedback on our proposals to create:
- a unified legislative framework to support children and young people from 0 to 25 with ALN,
- an integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring which facilitates early, timely and effective interventions; and
- a fair and transparent system of for providing information and advice, and for resolving concerns and appeals.
In addition to the written consultation, workshops were held for children and young people and their parents. These were attended by 174 children and 55 parents and carers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who responded to the consultation and participated in the workshops.
I am today publishing a summary of the consultation responses and the views expressed at the workshops. These documents are now available on the consultation pages of the Welsh Government’s website.
I am very pleased to see that the responses to the consultation showed a broad strength of support for the proposals. It is encouraging that the majority of those who responded agreed that they will deliver a better system for providing support for learners with ALN.
The consultation responses raised some important points and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how these are being addressed.
- There was some uncertainty over the legal basis of the proposed Individual Development Plans (IDPs). I want to emphasise that the intention is that they will give learners the same statutory protection as the current Statements of Special Educational Needs (SEN). These plans will also give protection to a wider group of learners than those currently entitled to a statement of SEN.
- Some respondents felt that the proposal to place Further Education Institutions (FEIs), maintained schools and nurseries under an obligation to use their ‘best endeavours’ to secure IDP provision was not strong enough. The term ‘best endeavours’ was used in the White Paper because this is the current legislative term used in relation to schools, which we proposed to extend to FEIs. The eventual legislative provision may be worded differently, but this will be subject to scrutiny by the National Assembly for Wales. It is likely that the proposed Code would provide guidance on how this duty is expected to be delivered in practice.
- There was concern that the proposed introduction of statutory plans for learners up to the age of 25 with a wider range of need than those who currently have Statements of SEN would mean there will be less resource to support those with the highest level of need. However, children and young people in schools and further education with a wide range of needs already receive assessments and support which is recorded and reviewed in a range of different statutory and non-statutory plans. Our proposals are intended to unify the legislative structure by replacing all such plans with a single plan which has the same statutory rights, regardless of the complexity of need or the education setting.
- There were calls for professionals working in health, education and social services to be trained in using the new system. The White Paper sets out our intention to ensure that the bringing into force of the reforms and a new Code will be accompanied by a programme of promotion and training for professionals from across the relevant agencies who work with children and young people with ALN. We are also taking forward work to ensure that the principles of person-centred practice are understood and applied to the existing SEN system, in partnership with those who work most closely with those learners.
- There was strong support for a Code with mandatory requirements to ensure that all agencies involved in providing support to children and young people with ALN would work together effectively. Our intention is to issue a Code with both mandatory requirements and statutory guidance to ensure that learners receive the support they need. My officials will be engaging with stakeholders as the Code is developed.
The responses received will be carefully considered to inform the development of the legislation planned for introduction to the National Assembly for Wales in the summer of next year. The costs associated with the proposed reforms will be set out in the Regulatory Impact Assessment section of the Explanatory Memorandum to be published when the Bill is introduced.