Additional Learning Needs Bill debated by AMs

(Title Image: Northampton College)

The Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Bill returned to the Senedd yesterday for Stage 3 proceeding where AMs can table amendments to the law, voted on by everyone in the chamber.

Additional Learning Needs Bill At A Glance

Stage 1 report (summary)

The Bill:

  • Defines what ALN (aka. “special needs”) is, establishes an ALN Code as well as places a duty on local authorities, schools and health boards to properly consider the views of an ALN child in the process of determining their needs and point them towards independent advocacy services if requested.
  • Establishes the process for drafting Individual Development Plans outlining what ALN learner’s educational needs are and what extra provisions are required. The plans stay in force until the learner is 25.
  • Creates the Education Tribunal for Wales and a dispute mechanism for ALN children and their parents/carers to challenge a decision or make an appeal. This replaces the Special Education Needs Tribunal for Wales.

Major Changes at Stage 2

The Children & Young People Committee oversaw Stage 2 alongside former Member in Charge of the Bill, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent). There’s a detailed overview of the changes by Assembly Research Service (pdf).

  • An expanded and improved definition of what additional learning needs are to include medical conditions that result in ALN.
  • A clearer mechanism for referral in early years education.
  • The Senedd will have to approve the ALN Code, it won’t come into force automatically.
  • Clarifies that ALN duties will not apply to people who are detained within the criminal justice system, but will still apply to those detained for mental health reasons.
  • Places a duty on local authorities to consider the provision of Welsh-medium ALN services.

The Key Amendments at Stage 3

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), was the new Member in Charge.

Amendment 3 – Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West)
Enshrines the UN Rights for The Disabled within the Bill.
Vote: Amended version passed unanimously

Amendment 13 – Darren Millar AM
Ensure ALN individual development plans continue to be valid if a person starts a further education course and isn’t expected to finish it until after their 25th birthday.
Vote: Rejected – 24 For, 27 Against
Reason for Rejection: The age range is already longer than the current system and authorities have to keep the plan in force until the end of the academic year after which a learner turns 25 (where applicable).

Amendment 54 – Darren Millar AM
Include a proper assessment of transport needs that may be a direct result of ALN.
Vote: Amendment Withdrawn
Reason for Withdrawal: Education Secretary believes it gives transport specific prominence over other forms of support. School transport guidance will be looked at again to take ALN into account.

Amendment 60 – Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales)
People should not be charged for accessing independent advocacy services.
Vote: Amendment Withdrawn
Reason for Withdrawal: Different amendments were introduced to ban charging for advocacy services.

Amendment 64 – Llyr Gruffydd AM
Local authorities and health boards must assess the needs of Welsh-speaking children in terms of accessing ALN services.
Vote: Rejected – 24 For, 27 Against
Reason for Rejection: Amendments at Stage 2 have already addressed this; could make provisions in the Bill less clear.

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