Agenda item

Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018


(a)       That the report be noted;


(b)       That a letter requesting clarification on how the Act would be cost neutral and the term ‘universal provision’ be sent to the Cabinet Secretary for Education at Welsh Government; and


(c)        That a further report be provided to the committee following implementation.


            The Senior Manager introduced an update on the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018.  The new statutory framework for supporting children and young people with additional learning needs would replace the current legislation covering Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Young People with Learning Difficulties or Disabilities (LDD) in Post 16 education and training.  The timescale for implementation had now been moved to September 2021 to enable Welsh Government (WG) to work through all the comments received during the consultation process.


            The Senior Manager reported on a meeting of the ALN Forum held the previous day which discussed the draft Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCo) job description for schools.  She confirmed that Jan Williams had been temporarily appointed as the Early Years Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer (ALNLo) and that the Health Board were looking at funding and recruitment for the Designated Clinical Lead Officer (DECLo) role.   She referred to the Flintshire ALN Transformation Plan and the work being carried out to understand ‘what universal provision was’. Schools were working in clusters within Flintshire and regionally with Further Education and Health Board colleagues included in these discussions.  She also referred to the WG timescale, the cost implications for the Council and the need for clear legal advice to understand how to interpret the Act to ensure that the pupils who needed this most would benefit.  As regards Post 16 she said the situation was unclear at present with the need for clarity on the universal provision and the mechanism for devolving the money for Post 16 specialist provision.       


            The Chair was pleased that WG had listened to the concerns raised by local authorities.


             Councillor Mackie raised concern that WG were not introducing the IT support required immediately and raised concern regarding the potential 2 to 3 year timescale for this to be sourced and implemented.  In response the Senior Manager clarified that no formal decision had been made by WG yet.    The feasibility study completed by the North Wales region had been considered by WG and a paper was being written to be presented to the Cabinet Secretary for Education for consideration; the complexity of the required system would cause the potential delay. 


            Mrs Rebecca Stark asked questions on the job description, raising concerns on the workload, the delay in provision of IT support, the definition of universal provision and asked if this would remain regional or become national. She also asked if the staff training programme was sufficiently robust to ensure it addressed the needs of pupils.  The Senior Manager responded that WG saw this as a cost neutral act and there had been no indication of whether additional funding to cover the additional responsibilities brought about by the Act would be provided.  There was funding available through the ALN Transformation Grant to support preparation for implementation in September 2021 and this was being used to support cluster working and in-house training; the potential cost pressure on schools around implementation had been flagged corporately as a risk.  WG have announced a further ALN £7.2m grant funding across all local authorities in Wales and we were awaiting further detail around the amount and terms and conditions for the grant.


            Mrs Stark added there were serious concerns especially around case law and asked what the authority’s position was on this.  In response the Senior Manager said that the lack of detailed information from WG on universal provision could leave schools and the Council at risk at Tribunals and additional specialist legal support may be required once the reforms were implemented.


            Mr David Hytch felt the incidents of mental health could fall under the act and impact pupil attendance and sought clarification on the roles and capacity of the ALN officers.  The Senior Manager agreed, and reported on regional half termly meetings at which attendance by health colleagues was sporadic. She advised that Health professionals would be responsible for identifying any provision required in response to health needs and that the Tribunal could not direct the Health Board to include  provision.  She also advised that the parents would have to engage with the NHS complaints process where there was a disagreement over requirements and that the Council may have to make provision whilst the dispute is resolved.  With regards to Post 16, WG were suggesting up to 2 years targeted provision with local authorities responsible for commissioning and funding this.   In response to the second point the ALN Officers would have an advisory role and support parents, teachers and key workers to ensure schools were prepared.


            Councillor Tudor Jones referred to point 2.07 in the report and asked who would be responsible for holding the data and providing support to young people in custody, elective home educated and traveller children.   The Senior Manager confirmed it would fall to the authority to identify if a young person required ALN support and develop a plan for that person.  The authority would not be responsible for making provision for young people whilst they were in custody.   As regards the elective home educated, there was no funding in current budgets to support this but that this could change when the Code was released.  Data on these young people was collected annually by local authorities and provided to WG. Councillor Jones asked if these children would need to be assessed too.   The Senior Manager confirmed they would be aware of some of the children as they may have accessed school prior to becoming home educated but it was likely that they would have a role to undertake assessment where this had not taken place.  A particular difficulty with the traveller community was where families move whilst the assessment process was partially completed.  She added that one of the benefits of the new process was that schools would determine if ALN support was required rather than waiting to be assessed as they do now.


            Councillor Hughes suggested the committee write to WG for a fuller explanation on why this had been deemed cost neutral.  The Chief Officer referred to the previous letter already sent on this matter.  Councillor Hughes suggested that a similar letter be written to reinforce the level of concern and that another paragraph be added to the letter to ask for a definition of universal provision.  The Senior Manager said there had been resistance by WG to do this and felt there was an expectation that Local Authorities and Schools absorb the costs.  The Chair suggested the Chief Officer write another letter requesting clarification on what WG deemed costs neutral and asking for clarification on what was WG’s definition of universal provision. 


Mrs Stark asked if more information could be provided on what costs schools had already borne for this and also if some evidence based projections could be brought back to committee


This additional recommendation was proposed by Councillor Hughes and seconded by Mrs Stark.




(a)       That the report be noted;


(b)       That a letter requesting clarification on how the Act would be cost neutral and the term ‘universal provision’ be sent to the Cabinet Secretary for Education at Welsh Government; and


(c)        That a further report be provided to the committee following implementation.

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