ADDITIONAL LEARNING NEEDS (ALN) TRANSFORMATION
To receive a report from the Head of Education Services on the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) transformation (copy enclosed).
11.30am – 12pm
The Lead Member for Education, Children and Families introduced the report (previously circulated) to the Committee.
The report provided information regarding the actions taken to ensure that the Local Authority and schools were ready to meet their statutory requirements under the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act, 2018 that started in September 2021 and was being implemented until 2025. The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Welsh Language had allowed for an extension on the implementation period due to feedback received from schools.
The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act, 2018 would replace the current Special Educational Needs Code of Practice for Wales (2002). The new Act would be supported by regulations and an Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Code. The Act replaced the terms `special educational needs` (SEN) and ‘learning difficulties and/or learning disabilities’ (LDD). This would also replace existing plans, such as Individual Education Plans (IEPs), Statements of SEN and Learning Skills Plans.
The Inclusion Officer guided members through the report on the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) transformation.
Training on the ALN reforms continued to be provided to local authority (LA) teams where needed. The LA continued to provide support and guidance to schools where required. At a recent Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCo) meeting, school systems and processes were discussed, shared and explored and a workshop on writing Individual Development Plans had been held.
School inclusion funding was fully delegated to schools as agreed in the school budget forum.
Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham had implemented the regional IT system (Eclipse ALN) which enabled the management of the new ALN processes. Denbighshire IT along with regional colleagues continued to work to refine the system.
The Team Around the School (TaS) had been established to continue to meet the current requirements of the Statutory Assessment Process and the ALNET (Wales) Act 2018 in relation to early intervention and prevention and accurate, timely identification of additional learning needs. Work was continuing with schools to map out their provision including interventions and strategies that they used to support learners with and without ALN.
The Chair thanked the officers for their report and welcomed questions from Members.
Members questioned if schools had adequate time and resources to plan effectively for ALN and queried if the current budget allowed for the transformation to be implemented. The Inclusion Officer informed Members that there had been some funding from Welsh Government in terms of grants to support schools and local authorities in implementing the transformation. The Lead Member for Education, Children and Families stated that the Welsh Government Minister for Education and the Welsh Language had responded to the concerns raised by schools in relation to budget and an allocation of £12 million had been made to support resources and an additional £1 million investment had been allocated to Special Schools to enable the transformation to be implemented successfully.
Members queried the feedback from Head Teachers referred to in the report, stating that funding was often highlighted to local councillors as a main concern for schools in the area whenever they spoke to local headteachers.
Members requested clarification on the new Eclipse ALN system and questioned if the system was for teachers to diagnose children with an ALN. The Inclusion Officer informed Members that the Eclipse IT System was being implemented to record the statutory processes that took place. If a child was going through the process for consideration of ALN, the system would record correspondence that was sent to parents and any decisions that were made. Education staff were not able or qualified to give a diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions, for example Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These types of diagnosis were undertaken by medically qualified professionals. Education staff were trained to support the educational needs of those pupils identified as having ALN.
Members questioned if teachers could make a referral to request one-to-one support for a child without a formal diagnosis. The Principal Education Manager stated that the diagnosis of a child did not initiate the support that a child could receive and that the support was based upon a child’s presenting needs. Schools had a duty of care to each child which included supporting a child’s needs with or without a diagnosis. TaS meetings were held regularly within the local authority to enable schools to discuss any concerns they had and to obtain any advice.
Following a discussion, it was agreed that a general update on the ALN Transformation should be brought to Performance Scrutiny in 12 months’ time.
The Chair thanked the officers in attendance for their report.
Following an extensive discussion, the Committee:
Resolved: subject to the above to –
(i) receive the report and the information provided during the discussion on the local education authority’s progress in ensuring that its schools are ready to meet the statutory requirements entailed with the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018; and
(ii) request that a further report be provided to members during the autumn of 2024 analysing
· the effectiveness of the funding provided to schools to meet the Act’s requirements;
· progress made in recruiting and supporting Educational Psychologists;
· school-based educational practitioners’ feedback on the resources and support provided to schools with a view to meeting the Act’s additional requirements; and
· staff recruitment and retention matters relating to the implementation of the Act’s requirements.