Support in education

In this section you can read about support in education for children with additional learning needs in Wales.

In this article

Introduction to additional learning needs

A child who needs extra help in school because of a disability or learning difficulty is said to have additional leaning needs (ALN). You might also hear these needs described as special educational needs (SEN).

What does the law say?

The law is set out in the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018. The Act is supplemented by the Additional Learning Needs (Wales) Regulations 2021 (gov.wales) and the Additional Learning Needs Code for Wales 2021.

The law says that local authorities have a duty to identify children with ALN in their care. They must ensure that children with ALN are getting the education provision they need.

Changes to the Wales education system

A new system of support for children with ALN, called the ALN framework, was introduced on 1 September 2021 to replace the existing SEN system. There is new statutory guidance: the Additional Learning Needs Code for Wales 2021.

The new system will be gradually phased in until Summer 2024, with a timetable in place for transfer of children and young people currently received support through the SEN system.

This means that the support your child receives might come under the old or the new system, depending on where they are in the transfer process.

What support will my child receive?

Support under the ALN framework

If your child starts to receive support in education for the first time after 1 September 2021 and is in year 10 or below, their support will come under the ALN framework.

Assessing a child’s ALN

When a local authority or maintained school believes that a child might have ALN, they must appoint a “designated co-ordinator” to decide for certain.

You do have a right to ask your child’s school education authority to carry out this assessment. Speak to your child’s school if you think your child might have ALN and needs more support.

Depending on your child’s needs, additional support might be provided in a range of ways. 

What support will my child get?

If it’s decided that your child does have ALN, the designated co-ordinator must prepare an Independent Development Plan (IDP).

An IDP is a document that sets out a child’s ALN and describes the additional learning provision they’ll receive to meet their needs. The IDP should be maintained over time, with input from you and your child.

Most children with ALN will go to a mainstream school. There is lots of support a school can put in place to help your child. For example, a teacher or teaching assistant could give them individual help or help in a small group. A visiting specialist teacher or professional like a speech and language therapist could help them too.

Support under the SEN system

If your child was receiving support in education before 1 September 2021, that support comes under the SEN system and the SEN code of practice.

If they are receiving support through School Action/Action Plus, they will begin to be moved to the ALN framework from 1 January 2022 if in Year 10 or below, or in years 2 and 3 of implementation if in another group of pupils. See more information about the implementation timetable for different groups. Until your child is moved to the ALN framework, the existing SEN legislation remains in force for them.

If your child has a statement of SEN, this will continue to be in place until it is replaced by an IDP.

Putting things right

All schools have a governing body responsible for complaints. See more information in the Welsh government’s booklet.

Similarly, each local authority has a complaints procedure. You’ll find details of these at https://gov.wales/find-your-local-authority

If a child, young person or their parent is not happy with a decision made in relation to their ALN, they can ask the local authority to review or reconsider it. There is also the right to appeal against decisions made by the local authority in relation to a child’s ALN.

If you’re appealing a decision about an IDP, an ALN assessment, or making a claim of disability discrimination, these are handled by the Education Tribunal for Wales. The Education Tribunal is an independent tribunal.

The former Special Educational Needs tribunal for Wales (SENTW) continues to handle appeals relating to Statement of SEN contents.

Need more help?

To find out more about ALN, including assessments and putting support in place, contact SNAP Cymru; helpline: 0808 801 0608. SNAP Cymru provides information, advice and support for parents, children and young people who have, or may have, additional learning needs or disabilities.

The National Youth Advocacy Service helps children and young people make their voices heard about decisions that affect them.