Support under the ALN framework

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On this page, you can read about support in education for children with additional learning needs in Wales.

The Wales education system is changing – make sure you’re in the right place

Who is this information for?

The Welsh government introduced a new system of support for children with ALN, called the ALN framework, on 1 September 2021 to replace the existing SEN system.

The new system is gradually phasing in until Summer 2024. 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.

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

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, and this page is for you.

In this article

What does the law say?

The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 sets out the law.

The Additional Learning Needs (Wales) Regulations 2021 ( and the Additional Learning Needs Code for Wales 2021 supplement the Act.

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.

Identifying ALN

Who will identify my child’s ALN?

Maintained schools* and further education settings must designate a person responsible for identifying children and young people with ALN. This could be the ALN coordinator, or ALNCO.

Usually, the education setting is responsible for deciding whether a child has ALN when either it comes to their attention or it appears as a possibility. In some cases – for example, if a child is in an independent school or educated at home – it is the local authority’s responsibility to make the assessment.

Education settings can refer the decision to the local authority in certain circumstances.

* Maintained schools are those the local authority both funds and controls.

How will the school or local authority identify my child’s ALN?

The school or local authority will gather evidence to assess whether your child has ALN. Evidence may come from a variety of sources, including staff within the setting, other services involved with your child, and/or from you or your child directly.

For children and young people with an identified disability, the evidence should relate to whether and how that disability prevents or makes it difficult for them to use educational facilities usually available to others of the same age in mainstream schools in Wales. For children and young people who do not have an identified disability, but who appear to have a greater difficulty in learning than their peers, questions will relate to why they are not making the progress they are expected to make.

Paragraph 20.4 of the ALN Code for Wales provides a list of the sorts of evidence helpful in working out whether a child has a learning difficulty. This includes screening tools, questionnaires, developmental checklists, evidence about the quality of their work, health assessments, and other forms of personalised assessment.

If a local authority is considering whether your child has ALN, it must at least consider whether to seek advice from an educational psychologist. And it must seek this advice if it thinks it necessary to determine the extent of their ALN or the help they need. Education settings don’t have to seek expert advice in this way, though it may be appropriate to in some cases.

The local authority will also look at whether your child is getting support from other agencies or third sector organisations and involve them in the process.

Individual Development Plans

If they decide that your child does have ALN, the local authority or education setting must prepare an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

What is an IDP?

An IDP is a document that sets out a child’s ALN and describes the additional support they’ll receive to meet their needs.

The local authority or setting should maintain the IDP over time, with input from you and your child. They must review the IDP at least every year. 

What is in an IDP?

IDPs will vary in length and complexity, depending on the child or young person’s educational needs and the provision required. The format of an IDP may differ slightly to suit local preferences. Annex A of the ALN Code of Practice includes a template IDP.

The description of your child’s ALN should be as clear and comprehensive as possible. The IDP should include the impact of your child’s needs on their learning and include any relevant diagnosis.

The extra help a child with ALN receives is called Alternative Learning Provision (ALP). This provision should be detailed, specific and quantifiable. For example, it should explain what tasks the school needs to carry out, which staff will do them, and what training they need to have. If your child is three or over, ALP is any support additional or different to that provided to other children of the same age. If your child is under three, ALP means any education provision at all.

An IDP may start off with a small amount of additional support. If your child does not make the expected progress, the local authority or setting should review the IDP. After this, the IDP should incorporate any additional support your child needs.

See Chapter 23 of the ALN Code of Practice for further detail about what an IDP should contain.

What support will my child receive?

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

If your child’s maintained school or further education institution can’t provide the support your child needs, the local authority becomes responsible for maintaining their IDP. Local authorities will also maintain IDPs for children and young people with ALN who do not attend a maintained setting, or are registered at more than one setting (one of which is a maintained school or pupil referral unit).

Choosing a school

The ALN Act holds that mainstream education is best for most children with ALN, unless:

The ALN Code of Practice says that the local authority should not take lightly the decision not to educate a child in a mainstream setting. The local authority must listen to the views, wishes and feelings of you and your child. It must also consider other relevant factors, including the ability of the mainstream school, or any potential alternative setting, to offer appropriate ALP. It should take into account your child’s individual circumstances, and ensure that it complies with its education duties.

If it can’t provide your child’s ALP unless it secures a place at a particular school or other institution or board and lodging, the local authority must include a description of that provision in the IDP.

Putting things right

If you’re not happy with the support your child’s receiving, in the first instance you can speak to your child’s teacher or ALNCO about any concerns you have, informally.

Making a complaint

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

Making an appeal

If you or your child is unhappy with a decision about their ALN, you can ask the local authority to review or reconsider it. You also have the right to appeal.

The Education Tribunal for Wales handles appeals about decisions concerning IDPs, ALN assessments and disability discrimination claims. 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.

Who can appeal?

You, your child, a case friend or child or parent’s representative can appeal to the ETW.

If the appeal concerns a young person over compulsory school age, the young person or their representative can appeal.

What decisions can I appeal about?

The ETW can only decide appeals of local authority and further education setting decisions in Wales. If you disagree with the decision of a maintained school, you will need to ask the local authority to review the decision first. If you disagree with its review, you can appeal this to the ETW.

You can appeal the following decisions:

You can also appeal certain decisions relating to when a child or young person is detained. Paragraph 33.6 of the ALN Code for Wales lists these. And the ETW can make non-binding recommendations to an NHS body about the health-related aspects of an IDP.

What parts of the IDP can I appeal?

You can appeal the sections of an IDP:

When can I appeal?

There is an eight-week time limit for an appeal to the ETW from the date that the local authority notifies you of its final decision.

You can extend the time limit for an appeal by a further eight weeks if you use the local authority’s disagreement resolution services (DRS). This brings the overall time limit to 16 weeks from the date of the local authority’s decision letter. The local authority must notify you about the DRS, and you need to notify the Tribunal when you appeal if you have used DRS.

There is guidance on appeals on the ETW website, where you can also download the relevant forms. You may also wish to seek independent legal advice. You need to send an appeal form and case statement, although you can send them at different times during the eight-week (or 16-week) period.

Once you have lodged your appeal with the ETW, ETW will register it and send a copy to the local authority or further education setting.

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.