Skip to content
Pupil hard at work

Additional learning needs reform

The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 (‘the Act’) attained Royal Assent in January 2018. It provided a new statutory framework for supporting children and young people (up to 25 years of age) with additional learning needs (ALN). The Act, Code and regulations made under it replaced existing legislation surrounding special educational needs (SEN) and the assessment of children and young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD). Implementation of the ALN system set out in the ALN Act for children is phased over the school years 2021-2022, 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.

From 1 September 2021, the ALN system commenced for all children up to, and including, Year 10 who were newly thought to have, or were newly identified as having, ALN on or after 1 September 2021. From 1 January 2022 the ALN system commenced for children up to, and including, Year 10 who had already been identified as having SEN, were in receipt of special education provision (SEP) via Early Years Action/Plus or School Action/Plus, and attended a local authority nursery, local authority school or PRU on 1 January 2022. This was a phased implementation across specified year groups.

Following the making of an Amendment Order, the time available to move children who were due to move to the ALN system between January 2022 and August 2022 was extended, so that they may be moved during the 2022 to 2023 school year. All children and young people identified as having ALN are required to have an individual development plan (IDP) in place.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic and the challenges it posed for providers, nearly all continued to make steady progress in reforming their provision to meet the requirements of the Additional Learning Needs Code. In nearly all cases, the members of staff most associated with delivering the changes, for example additional learning needs co-ordinators (ALNCos) in schools, had a good understanding of the new requirements and were positive about the changes. In particular, the move towards personcentred practice (PCP) and the greater involvement of learners and parents in planning and reviewing provision was seen as a positive development.

The embedding of understanding of additional learning needs (ALN) reform across all staff within providers was, however, more variable. In primary schools, ALNCos were largely successful in disseminating guidance and training to other members of staff. This proved more problematic in many secondary schools, as it is challenging to ensure that all teaching staff realise that provision for ALN is everyone’s responsibility, particularly where teachers view themselves as subject specialists and do not routinely consider the needs of pupils with ALN as they plan and deliver lessons. Welsh-medium providers continued to express concerns around the availability of Welsh language resources to support ALN work.

Support from local authorities and regional consortia to assist providers in implementing the changes was generally useful. For example, local authorities provided effective professional learning opportunities including workshops, on-line modules, professional discussion opportunities and good quality resources for staff to use. Most non-maintained settings benefited from local authority training and support through the new statutory role of Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer (EYALNLO).

By July, nearly all providers had successfully begun to identify those learners who need additional learning provision (ALP) and mapped out the provision needs for other learners without ALN. In most providers, leaders ensured a range of suitable interventions, support packages and curriculum provision to address the needs of pupils with ALN at all levels. In many non-maintained settings, leaders began to develop one-page profiles for children that enabled them to clearly identify children’s preferences, interests and emerging needs on entry to the setting. In a few sectors, providers worked collaboratively to develop their provision and ensure consistency. For example, many ALNCos in primary schools worked in partnership with their cluster of schools to create pamphlets and letters to inform parents about ALN reform. In special schools, PCPs have been a well-established element of their provision for a significant period. This placed them in a good position to implement ALN reform and allowed them to provide support to colleagues in mainstream schools to develop effective PCPs and to influence the design and use of IDPs.

Learners in post-16 are not yet impacted by the ALN reform. As part of our thematic report on the work of Careers Wales advisers, we found that learners with additional learning needs and their parents valued the specialist support they receive from Careers Wales’ advisers to plan for their transition into post-16 specialist education provision. There is still uncertainty in the system about how this independent and impartial advice will be provided under future arrangements where local authorities will be responsible for funding specialist post-16 placements and how that might impact on learners’ transitions into further education in independent specialist colleges or independent living skills provision in further education colleges.