Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education
I am providing Members with an update on the phased implementation of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Act from September 2021.
In 2018, I published a draft implementation plan, which set out a three year timeframe for moving children of compulsory school age and below from the existing special education needs system to the new additional learning needs system.
The implementation plan, included learners with statements and learners with special education provision provided via school action and school action plus. The phased approach allowed for a gradual transition to avoid overwhelming learners, schools and local authorities with the change.
Since publication of the plan, Covid has had a significant impact on Wales and I cannot ignore the impact of this on resources available in our schools, pupil referral units, local authorities and our health service. As a result, I have carefully considered my aims for implementing the new system, based on what is reasonably deliverable in the current circumstances.
Therefore from 1 September 2021, the ALN system will commence for children of compulsory school age and below who:
- attend maintained schools in Nursery Years 1 and 2 and Year 1, Year 3, Year 5, Year 7 and Year 10) who have special educational provision via school action or school action plus;
- are detained; and
- do not have special educational needs on or before that date, regardless of their year group or setting - including those that may attend an EOTAS setting, an independent school or who are electively home educated.
This means that children who currently have special educational provision via a statement and those who are in any form of post-16 education, will not be included in the first year of implementation.
It remains important that we have a system that operates effectively and there is a need to continue to work through the complexities of the transition between the new and existing system and I hope to provide a further update before the end of this Senedd Term.
As part of that update, I intend to issue an implementation guide to support planning for the commencement of the new system and the aims and objectives for years 2 and 3 of the plan. In the meantime, through our Transformation Leads we continue to engage with those at the forefront of preparing for the transition to the new system. I am therefore aware that we need to keep a close eye on the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, given how rapidly circumstances can develop and change. In line with the 21 day review during the February half term, I will take the opportunity to consider conditions and if necessary revisit plans to see if further changes are required to reflect the situation and to alleviate pressure.
However, at the present time, I remain committed to the delivery of these reforms, and on 4 January, in line with the commencement of the statutory roles of the additional learning needs co-ordinator (ALNCo), the designated education clinical lead officer (DECLO) and the early years additional learning needs lead officer (EY ALN LO); I published the non-statutory guidance to ensure that those undertaking these roles were enabled to do so with the most up to date information from the revised ALN Code.
Finally, it remains the intention to lay the revised Additional Learning Needs Code and associated regulations before the Senedd in March 2021 to enable the commencement and phased roll out of the Act from September 2021.