Following recent announcements on funding for learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), and on the implementation of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Act 2018 (the ALN Act), Trish D’Souza and Burhan Uzzaman sum up what Welsh education providers need to know.
Jeremy Miles, the current Welsh Government Minister for Education, announced on 28 March 2022 that an additional £4.5 million will be available on top of the £18 million being provided to learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) for this financial year (2021-2022). The £4.5 million funding will be distributed to special schools and units in Wales. It will also be used to contribute towards third sector ALN organisations to increase understanding of the new ALN system in Wales.
The Minister also provided an update on plans for implementing the ALN Act for children who are post-16. Jeremy Miles has stated that there will be a ‘flow-through’ approach by which, “those currently in Year 10 and below, who are being moved to the ALN system by a school or local authority during the implementation period, will ‘flow-through’ into further education with an individual development plan already in place.” If a young person with ALN is not yet already within the new ALN system at the end of 2024/25 school year, they will move to the ALN system at that point.
Further Education Institutions and local authorities will begin to maintain individual development plans in an organised way for young people, to ensure they are fully prepared to undertake their duties for maintaining and monitoring these plans, through a “person-centred” process. It is hoped this will avoid placing burden on education providers and local authorities in such a stressful period “due to the impacts of the pandemic and the wider reform agenda.”
The Education Act 1996 and the Learning Skills Act 2000 will continue to apply to young people until all relevant provisions of the ALN Act come into force. Young people will therefore continue to benefit from the support available through the existing Special Educational Needs and Learning Difficulty and Disability systems.
The Welsh Government’s responsibility for securing specialist post-16 provision for young people will be transferred to local authorities as part of the ALN Act. Jeremy Miles has stated that this will take place gradually, with local authorities becoming responsible for those who have been moved to the ALN Act from 2022/23 (those currently in Year 10 and below). The Welsh Government will continue to secure and fund post-16 placements for young people who have not yet been moved to the ALN system (those currently in Year 11 and above).
Jeremy Miles re-assured in his recent statement that the Welsh Government is committed to providing certainty and security to young people in relation to specialist provision. He went on to say that “I can therefore confirm today that any funding for placements agreed by Welsh Ministers before the end of the 2024-25 school year will remain available to young people until they complete their agreed programme of study.”
The Minister has also stated that the time-period for the ALN Transformation for the Further Education sector will be extended from 31 March 2022 to 31 March 2023. Delays in implementation of the new ALN system have been commonplace up until now, but it remains to be seen if the transition for learners within the Further Education system will follow the revised timetable and/or whether further funds may be needed to ensure a smoother transition.