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27 March 2019
The Welsh Government’s consultation on the draft Additional Learning Needs Code closed last week (Friday 22 March 2019). The Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee has published its submission to the consultation, which consists of a letter to the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, and an annex containing the Committee’s analysis and views on the draft Code.
The Welsh Government is required to issue an ALN Code under section 4 of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018, which received Royal Assent in January 2018, following its scrutiny and passage within the Assembly in 2017. Section 5 of the Act sets out the procedure the Welsh Government must follow, including a consultation process involving the relevant Committee in the Assembly.
The purpose of the ALN Code
The purpose of the Code is to provide detail on the way certain provisions of the Act will be decided upon and carried out. It will therefore provide guidance to ‘relevant persons’ (organisations who have functions under the Act) on how to discharge their statutory duties and responsibilities. In doing so, it will set out actions which these organisations, for example school or further education institutions (FEI) governing bodies, local authorities and health boards, ‘should’, ‘may’, and ‘must’ undertake in respect of ALN.
The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018
The 2018 Act will replace the existing Special Educational Needs (SEN) framework with a reformed system based on Additional Learning Needs (ALN). The Welsh Government plans to introduce the new ALN system on a phased basis over a three year period commencing September 2020.
The Act makes provision for universal, statutory Individual Development Plans for all children and young people with ALN. This will bring an end to the current distinction between school led interventions and local authority issued statements and integrate the separate legislative arrangements that exist for pupils in schools and post-16 students in colleges. The Act also seeks to improve collaboration between local authorities and health boards, as well as establishing a fairer and more transparent system with greater emphasis on disagreement avoidance and dispute resolution. Our Act Summary provides a fuller explanation of the legislation and the new system it creates.
The CYPE Committee’s scrutiny of the draft Code
The covering letter to the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s submission sets out the approach the Committee, as a statutory consultee, took to scrutinising the draft Code and informing its response to the Welsh Government consultation. The Committee undertook an analysis of the draft Code against commitments made by the Welsh Government during the Act’s (in its Bill form) passage through the Assembly’s legislative process. For example, Ministers at the time gave a number of undertakings when accepting or rejecting Committees’ recommendations during scrutiny of the Bill and when resisting tabled amendments.
The Committee convened a working group of stakeholders and invited their views on how the draft Code addressed Welsh Government commitments in 16 areas (comprising 31 sub-areas in total) relating to the Act. The working group also held a more general discussion to highlight any areas of concern, or areas where they believed the draft code would work well. This resulted in a further seven areas considered by the Committee.
Subsequently, the CYPE Committee has formed views in each of these 38 areas and called on the Welsh Government to make corresponding changes in the final version of the Code.
The Committee has emphasised that in convening the working group, it was not duplicating the Welsh Government’s consultation process as the membership of the working group was not exhaustive and individual organisations would be responding themselves to that consultation.
What will happen next?
Together with the draft ALN Code, the Welsh Government is also consulting on two sets of regulations under the Act – the draft Education Tribunal for Wales Regulations and the draft Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator Regulations – and revisions to the Code of Practice relating to Looked After and Accommodated Children under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
The Welsh Government will consider what revisions to make to the draft Code following the consultation and intends to lay the final versions of the Code and the regulations before the Assembly by the end of 2019. This is with a view to the Act, Code and the regulations taking effect from September 2020, with a three-year period implementation period before they apply in full. The Welsh Government’s implementation guide (published in July 2018) sets out the following process:
- Until September 2020, the existing SEN framework is still in operation and remains in place, both for learners who are currently supported as well as any newly identified learners with SEN in the meantime.
- From September 2020, any newly identified learners with ALN will be supported under the new system and have an IDP.
- Any learners already in the SEN system who have statements, or learners in a non-maintained Early Years setting, will be transitioned to IDPs over a two-year period, September 2020 to August 2022:
- Learners under 2 years old, in Nursery 1 or Nursery 2, in Year 1, Year 3, Year 5, Year 7, Year 9 and Year 10 will transition to an IDP in 2020/21. This will comprise 6,200 learners.
- The 2020/21 Reception, Year 2, Year 4, Year 6 and Year 8 cohorts will transition over in 2021/22 when they are in Year 1, Year 3, Year 5, Year 7 and Year 9 respectively. This will comprise 4,100 learners.
- Any learners already in the SEN system who do not have a statement (supported via School Action/Early Years Action or School Action Plus/Early Years Action Plus) will transition over during a three-year period, September 2020 to August 2023:
- Learners who are in Nursery 1, Nursery 2, Year 1, Year 3, Year 5, Year 7 and Year 10 will transition to an IDP in 2020/21. This will comprise 40,700 learners.
- The 2020/21 Reception, Year 4, Year 8 and Year 9 cohorts will transition over in 2021/22 when they are in Year 1, Year 5, Year 9 and Year 10 respectively. This will comprise 28,600 learners.
- The 2020/21 Year 2 and Year 6 cohorts will transition over in 2022/23 when they are in Year 4 and Year 8 respectively. This will comprise 15,900 learners.
Article by Michael Dauncey, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales