Education in Wales

3 mins read

In this section, you can read about support in education for children with additional learning needs in Wales, including about the reforms to the education system from 2021.

In this article

Introduction to additional learning needs

In any classroom, children learn at different speeds and in different ways. Teachers will plan their lessons and choose different types of lesson materials to help each child learn best.

Some children need more help than this and may have difficulty with:

  • Reading, writing, numbers.
  • Talking and listening.
  • Developing social skills.
  • Physical skills.
  • Emotion, mental health and behaviour.

In Wales, a child who needs a lot of extra help in any of these areas is said to have additional learning needs (ALN).

Who can help?

Schools, nurseries and colleges have to support children and young people who have additional learning needs and to treat them fairly. Schools must also support children with health conditions, including support to manage medications, personal care and to catch up after a period of absence.

All mainstream maintained schools and colleges in Wales must designate a person, or more than one person, who has responsibility for coordinating provision for learners with ALN. That person (or persons) is known as an additional learning needs co-ordinator, or ALNCo.

Talk to the school about what your worries are. Give them examples, and ask what support your child could have.

What support will my child receive?

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.

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 special educational needs (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.

Support under the ALN framework

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

Under the ALN framework, children and young people with ALN receive extra help through an Individual Development Plan (IDP). 

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 under the SEN code of practice.

If they are receiving support through School Action/Action Plus, this will end in January 2022. After that, they’ll start to receive support under the ALN framework.

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

More about the new system

The Welsh Government has FAQs about the new system:

The additional learning needs transformation programme: frequently asked questions