Mary Van den Heuvel argues that investment in training is key to effective reform of education for children with additional learning needs
In December the Welsh Government revealed their planned new law which will change the way in which children with additional learning needs (ALN) are given support within the education system.
We believe that in order for this new law to work as it is intended, more training is needed for the whole workforce as well as additional funding to ensure that support is available at the most appropriate level for learners with ALN.
As I said before the Bill was published, any model will provide additional barriers for a child or young person and their family rather than support if it is not adequately resourced.
ATL Cymru has been working with our colleagues in NAHT, UCAC and UCU to meet with AMs, WG Officials and the Children’s Commissioner to highlight some of the key issues which we believe need to be addressed in order for the new law to succeed in its aims.
There is much to welcome in the aims of the Bill to create:
- a unified legislative framework to support all children of compulsory school age or below with ALN, and young people with ALN in school or further education (FE);
- an integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring which facilitates early, timely and effective interventions; and
- a fair and transparent system for providing information and advice, and for resolving concerns and appeals.”
Never-the-less, there are many issues which need to be addressed in order that the new law will manage to address these stated aims.
Currently there are three levels of support available – school action, school action plus and then for children with more needs, a ‘statement’ which is provided for by a local authority.
Under these proposals, all children who have an additional learning need which requires additional learning provision (ALP) will have an individual development plan (IDP) – a statutory document.
The aim of this is to prevent conflict between children, young people and their parents and local authorities – the idea being that all children on an IDP have the right to their school or FEI going to their ‘best endeavours’ to meet their ALP described in an IDP.
If the Bill is implemented then there will be an increased responsibility for governing bodies to ensure that they use their ‘best endeavours’ (rather than current ‘reasonable adjustments’) to ensure they are implementing the ALP set out in the IDP.
We believe that funding and training are key to this new law working. There is a risk that changing the law will not have the impact required in terms of provision and early intervention if the funding is not available.
Support is most definitely needed for workforce training, not only on the key elements which will be set out in the Code of Practice in terms of roles and responsibilities, but also in terms more expertise for everyone to ensure they are ready to identify and meet the needs of more children with ALN.
The duty for providing support for children and young people with ALN falls heavily on the education sector.
We are still worried that the Bill replicates, rather than breaks down, some of the existing barriers between health and education – and it remains unclear how the legislation will fit with social care.
We have suggested some amendments to the law at the next stage, in order that it will include duties on health, a clear role for local authorities and access to specialist services. These will hopefully be taken forward in the Stage Two changes (amendments) proposed by the Minister or members of the Committee when they look at it again in June.
Let’s hope that this Bill will mean the right support is delivered to every child at the right time, in order that they can fulfil their potential.