Changes to the way in which autistic pupils are supported in education have become clearer as scrutiny of the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal Bill continues in The National Assembly for Wales.

Pencils

After taking evidence from a range of stakeholders from across Wales, three National Assembly for Wales committees reported on their scrutiny of the Bill and have made recommendations on how it could be improved.

The Minister for Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language, Alun Davies AM, who is responsible for Additional Learning Needs has responded to these recommendations, which now gives us a clearer picture of what will change and also what still needs to be done to ensure that autistic learners are best supported by this new Bill.

The National Autistic Society Cymru (NAS Cymru), along with colleagues in other third sector organisations, have called for a number of changes, some of which we are pleased the Minister agrees with. These include, for example a national template for Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and a new duty on Health Boards to inform Local Authorities if they think that someone under compulsory school age has ALN.

There was also some agreement with NAS Cymru around suitable training for Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinators, however, we would like to see this go further to ensure ALNCos have specific training in autism. We strongly believe that this should also be extended to teachers and wider school staff, where appropriate.

Similarly, the Minister also agrees with us that impartial information and advice should be provided at the earliest opportunity and that independent advocacy should be made available where there is disagreement. However, we believe that the Bill should provide for information and advice to be given independent of the Local Authority or Governing Body to ensure impartiality.

Further to these changes, we would also like to see:

  • clearer duties on health bodies to provide interventions where needed, such as speech and language therapy
  • consideration of how apprenticeships and work-based learning could be included within the Bill
  • clarification on transitional arrangements between the current system and any new system when introduced
  • the IDP cover learner transport needs as well as clear transition pathways
  • the role of the Tribunal extended to cover health provision within the IDP.

Meleri Thomas, of NAS Cymru, said:

"We welcome the progress to date in ensuring that any new ALN system works for autistic pupils in Wales and we are grateful to the Minister for taking on board a number of the concerns NAS Cymru have raised so far.

"We will continue to make the case for further improvements to this Bill on behalf of our members and supporters. However, it’s important to remember that until this Bill is passed and implemented, the current SEN system remains in place."

The second stage of scrutiny will begin in the autumn, and the Minister hopes the Bill will be passed by the end of 2017. If you want any more information on the progress of the Bill, or would like to let us know your views, email wales@nas.org.uk

Our Educational Rights Service and our Transition Service can support you or your child if you need help understanding your rights and entitlements under the current SEN system in Wales.

SNAP Cymru also provides information, advice and support for parents, children and young people who have, or may have, special educational needs or disabilities.