The Education Minister Jeremy Miles has announced £20m of funding for local authorities to improve or create inclusive spaces and facilities to support learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN).
The funding can be used, for example, to create quiet or sensory areas, upgrade or purchase new equipment such as specialist sensory aids, and for works to improve the inclusivity of learning environments.
The funding will be distributed via local authorities to support mainstream schools, special schools or pupil referral units.
The investment will support the implementation of the Additional Learning Needs Act, as well as supporting the delivery of the Curriculum for Wales by ensuring all learners are taught in classrooms and spaces with the technologies and facilities they need. The improvements will be led by local need and distribution of funding determined by local authorities.
Whitmore High School in Barry has recently completed a new specialist Autism Resource Base as a result of funding from the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.
The new base offers a quieter, low-arousal environment for students who need to complete work or take a moment to recuperate, quiet sensory rooms (complete with sensory lighting and sensory objects such as weighted blankets and fiddle toys), kitchen facilities for cookery sessions, outdoor space for physical activities and their own wellbeing dog, Daisy, who is an incredible support for the students.
Innes Robinson, Head of School says:
Our Autism Base gives pupils a mainstream school experience within a specialist setting where empathy is embedded into every decision. We work closely with families and understand we are on an important journey with them. Our provision is a central part of Whitmore High School and we want our students to feel fully included in school life and have the same opportunities as other pupils.
Ysgol Dinas Brân in Llangollen has also received previous ALN improvement funding as part of the Havens project, alongside other schools in Denbighshire. The Havens project is a model of creating spaces within mainstream schools which provide a bridge for pupils who find it difficult to attend mainstream schools full-time.
At Ysgol Dinas Brân, funding has been used to create a wellbeing space called Hafan. The Hafan includes a ‘green room’ for students to take time out when they need, and there is a focus on green space with an outdoor space for planting and seating where the pupils can relax and enjoy.
Headteacher Mark Hatch says:
The area is working so well for students and has been a fantastic investment.
The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
This investment will make a real difference to learners with additional needs across Wales, making sure they have the facilities they need to support their learning.
I want to ensure we support and inspire all learners to reach their full potential, which is why implementing our Additional Learning Needs Act is central to our wider programme of educational reform.
Estyn recently reported on the steady progress towards implementing ALN reform, and strong support from the sector. It’s important that investment in education settings underpins that progress.