The Welsh Government has been working on reforming the special educational needs system in Wales since the summer of 2007 and is now in the process of bringing in new legislation.
A Draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Bill was published last December followed by a draft Code of Practice on February 14. The Bill itself is currently under consultation until March 3 but the Code of Practice will have its own consultation exercise later in the year.
Changes that are being proposed include:
- Replacing the term ‘special educational needs’ with ‘additional learning needs’ (ALN) and ‘special educational provision’ with ‘additional learning provision’ (ALP) although the legal definitions behind the terms remains essentially unchanged;
- Extending the age range from 0 – 25 to include further education colleges and specialist independent colleges (although not higher education or apprenticeships);
- Replacing the three-tier school action/school action plus/statement system with a one tier system: any learner identified with ALN will receive a new statutory document called an Individual Development Plan (IDP) which also replaces Individual Education Plans (IEP);
- IDPs will usually be written by schools. Only those learners with the most complex ALN will have an IDP maintained by their local authority meaning that the majority of learners with ALN will have to be assessed by their schools. If either a school or parent believes that a learner has needs requiring local authority intervention they can ask for the local authority’s support in assessing the learner’s ALN;
- Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCos) will be known as Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinators (ALeNCOs);
- As now, local authorities must have disagreement resolution services but will also have to “make arrangements for the provision” of independent advocacy services which will advise and assist with bringing an appeal to the Education Tribunal (which replaces the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal for Wales).
Issues that have been raised so far include the lack of a national template for IDPs meaning that each school and local authority could, in theory, produce different looking IDPs; the capacity of schools and further education colleges to actually produce and maintain IDPs for all of their learners with ALN, and the costs involved. The government in England has spent over £600 million so far on its SEN reform programme which is running into difficulties. Although England has a much bigger population than Wales the financial implications of implementing the new proposals as intended could be significant.
All the relevant documents about the proposed legislation, including the draft Bill, the draft Code of Practice and the issues raised in a recent stakeholders’ event, can be found on the National Assembly for Wales website.
The National Assembly for Wales’ Research Unit has produced a useful overview of the ALN proposals with links to other useful information and details of how to get involved in the consultation on the draft Bill can be found here.