Welsh Assembly to debate new SEN support system

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A new Bill that seeks to transform existing provision for learners with special educational needs (SEN) has begun its passage through the Welsh Assembly.

If passed into law, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (ALNET) Bill will usher in significant changes.

Among key proposals are to:

  • Replace the terms ‘special educational needs’ (SEN) and ‘learning difficulties and/or disabilities’ (LDD) with the term ‘additional learning needs’ (ALN).
  • 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.
  • Do away with the system of statementing and create a single plan (the individual development plan or 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.
  • 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.
  • 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framework for supporting them is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago, which is widely recognised as outdated.

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 per cent of learners with ALN achieved five good GCSE’s including Maths and Welsh or English compared to 59 per cent 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.

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.

Davies added.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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