The Welsh Government recently published their plans to introduce a new law to reform the support children and young people get if they have additional learning needs (ALN).
The new law will replace the laws we have now around statements of special educational needs (SEN) and support for young people with learning difficulties or disabilities in post-16 education and training.
NDCS Cymru broadly welcomes the plans – but there is still a lot of work to be done on the nitty gritty of how the new system will work.
Here are seven things we like about ALN Reform in Wales.
1) Using a new term – additional learning needs.
We think this is better than “special educational needs” because it’s a more accurate reflection of the challenges face by deaf children and young people.
2) Children and young people from 0-25 will be included in the new system
We hope that this means that babies and toddlers who are diagnosed deaf will get support at a very early stage. They will then have a better chance of developing speech and language in that crucial pre-school period. Including young people up to 25 is a great idea too, as it will hopefully improve the transition between school and college.
3) Individual Development Plans (IDPs).
These IDPs will replace statements of SEN and Individual Education Plans (IEP) under School Action and School Action Plus for all children and young people with additional learning needs from birth to 25. Having one plan that can be updated and reviewed should improve transition between pre-school and nursery, nursery and primary, primary and secondary and onto post 16 education or training.
4) Person centred planning
Children, young people and parents must be involved in planning an IDP and their views must be taken into account. This is great news as it will make sure that the new process is centred on the needs of the child.
5) Everyone has a right of appeal
Sometimes things go wrong – maybe the support a child needs is not provided, or it’s decided a child doesn’t need support. Under the new proposals everyone who has an IDP can appeal to a tribunal – though they will have to try to resolve issues locally first. Also if you think your child should have an IDP and you are refused you will be able to appeal. Young people in post-16 education and training will also have the right to appeal – which is a big step forward.
6) Sharing information
Under the new plans local authorities, health boards and further education colleges will have a duty to co-operate and share information about how they assess, plan and deliver the support that a child or young person needs in the IDP. This is a really positive step forward for families who get frustrated with the lack of co-ordination between different agencies
7) Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinators (ALNCOs)
The new system will place a duty on mainstream schools to have a designated person responsible for co-ordinating support and provision for pupils with additional needs. That person will also have to be either qualified or experienced or both. We hope that these ALNCOs will also have to have training on low incidence ALN like deafness.
Although we welcome these positive steps there is still a lot more that can be done to make sure deaf children and young people have the support they need in nurseries, schools and colleges. We will be working with the Welsh Government over the next few months on the new Code of Practice that will be introduced alongside the new law. We’re not exactly sure yet when the new law will be passed – hopefully before the next Assembly Election in 2016. But you can rest assured; NDCS Cymru will be working hard to make sure that the needs of deaf children are met in this new system.