Photo: young person before an open book 

The Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal [Wales] Bill will replace the current system of special educational needs support for Welsh pupils.

In December, the Welsh Government published its plans to change the way pupils with autism and other additional learning needs (ALN) are supported in education.

The main aims of the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal [Wales] Bill are to:

  • replace the terms 'special educational needs' (SEN) in schools and 'learning difficulties and/or disabilities' (LDD)  in further education with the new term 'additional learning needs' [ALN];
  • create a single system to support children and young people aged 0 to 25 who have ALN, instead of the two separate systems currently operating in schools and in Further Education;
  • 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. The IDP will be statutory and will include any relevant treatment or service that Health Boards consider would address the additional learning needs of people;
  • 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; and
  • rename the Special Education Needs Tribunal Wales the Education Tribunal. The Tribunal’s remit covers the educational provision only.

The Bill will now be scrutinized by the Children, Young People and Education committee before being debated by the National Assembly. The committee is currently seeking views from those who are affected by the proposed changes.

The Welsh Government will also publish a code of practice that will provide clear guidance on how those responsible for supporting pupils with ALN do so in accordance with the new law. Welsh Government hope that the Bill will be passed by the National Assembly for Wales at some point in 2018, although it isn’t expected to be implemented until 2019 at the earliest.

Meleri Thomas, of NAS Cymru, said,

"These changes are particularly important for autistic pupils in Wales. Of those currently with a statement of special educational needs, one quarter have autism as their primary condition.

"Many of our members tell us of the battles they fight to get the appropriate support they need and have often seen years of education wasted as a result. We hope that the Welsh Government listens to our concerns and make the most of this opportunity to truly transform the lives of autistic pupils in Wales."

The National Assembly for Wales have published a research briefing that provides more information on ALN in Wales. You can also read the Bill and Explanatory Memorandum on the National Assembly for Wales website.

The Welsh Government have also published a draft code of practice, seeking to provide clear guidance on how those responsible for supporting pupils with ALN do so in accordance with the new law.