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Additional learning needs (ALN) in Wales

From 1 September 2021, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal Wales Act will start to change the way children and young people aged 0-25 with additional learning needs (ALN) are supported in education in Wales.

This page gives a summary of the support for ALN introduced by the Act.

For more information on ALN, Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and how to go about getting one for your deaf child see our guide here.

What is Additional Learning Needs or ALN?

A child or young person has ALN if they have a learning difficulty or disability that makes it harder for them to learn if they are not given extra support that is not normally given to other learners their age.

There is information in Welsh Government guidance on the new ALN system to suggest that deafness can be considered ALN and that deaf children are eligible for a support plan, or an IDP.

Individual Development Plans or IDPs

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) describe a learner’s ALN and set out what support will be given to help them learn. IDPs are for children aged 0-16 with ALN, as well as young people aged 16-25 who attend sixth form or college and have ALN.

IDPs should be available to learners with all levels of ALN, not just those with a high level of support need. Any support written into an IDP has to be provided by law.

When will IDPs start?

From September 2021, children and young people who are newly identified as having ALN and needing a support should get an IDP.

Eventually IDPs will take over from existing learning support plans such as Statements, Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Learning and Skills Plans (LSPs). The Welsh Government has said that the changes will come in over time and that it isn’t expecting learners who already have a support plan to start to move over to an IDP until after January 2022.

How do I get an IDP for my child?

For more information on how to get an IDP for your child see our guide on Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Individual Development Plans (IDPs) (Wales).

Referral

  • Every school or college has an Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCO). First, talk to your ALNCO about getting a plan.
  • If you child is too young to attend school, you should first contact your local council and ask to speak to the Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer (EYALNLO).
  • Professionals working with your child, such as an audiologist or teacher may also refer your child to the ALNCO or EYALNLO, but they should talk to you about this first.
  • There is no need to wait for a referral from another professional, you can also ask for an IDP yourself.
  • If your request for an IDP is turned down, there are things you can do to challenge this.

Assessment

If the ALNCO or EYALNLO agrees that your child has ALN and would benefit from extra support, they will invite you and your child, and potentially other professionals, such as a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) or speech and language therapist, to a meeting to discuss your child’s support needs.

You and your child should be included in discussions around your child’s support and IDP at every stage.

Once you have an IDP, it should be reviewed every year. An earlier review can be requested if there is a good reason for it.

What type of support might an IDP include?

The support in a child or young person’s IDP will be different for everyone as it is based on their individual needs. The type of support outlined in an IDP can also be very wide ranging. However, some examples might include:

  • Support from a professional, such as a ToD, Speech and Language Therapist, a Communication Support Worker, etc.
  • Targeted deaf awareness training for those working with your child
  • Equipment such as a radio aid
  • Communication or signing support for the family of a young deaf child
  • Playgroups for deaf children
  • A place at a school or college with specialist support for deaf learners.

For more information on the the types of information that each section of an IDP may include see our IDP template as set out by the Welsh Government.

What if I am unhappy with a decision on my child’s IDP?

Families have the right to challenge decisions concerning their child’s IDP at every stage. This includes decisions around whether or not to provide, continue or change an IDP, as well as the support detailed in the IDP.

If you’re unhappy with any aspect of your child’s IDP, first talk to your ALNCO or EYALNLO about your concerns. If this doesn’t help to resolve your concerns, you can ask to use Dispute Resolution if you like. This is a service run by every council which seeks to provide space to talk through IDP disagreements. You also have the right to take an appeal to the Education Tribunal.

You should be aware, however, that you need to raise your concerns about an IDP within set timeframes.

You can also contact our Helpline at any time.

Your child’s rights

Your child also has rights under the Equality Act 2010. Schools, other education providers and local authorities must make reasonable adjustments to make sure that deaf children and young people (with or without ALN) are not at a substantial disadvantage.

Having a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act does not prevent your child from having an IDP assessment to find out if they would benefit from more support and to ensure that your child’s support needs are regularly reviewed as they move through their education.

Further information

For more information about ALN and IDPs, see our guide, our IDP template and the Welsh Government website.