Agenda item

Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018


That Committee received and considered the report on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018.


The Senior Manager (Inclusion and Progression) introduced the report which provided an update on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Wales Act (ALNET).  The Act was due to come into effect in September 2020 but this had been delayed until September 2021.  She provided information on the adjustments WG had made with regard to the conversion of the Statement of SEN into the Individual Development Plan and the implementation for Post 16 with the age range now 0 – 25 years.  WG had identified children in specific year groups with SEN needs who would be moving onto the new system at a normal point of transition with the Statement of SEN remaining in place until the conversation took place.


             Paula Roberts, the Senior Learning Adviser (ALN) had led on ALN Transformation for Flintshire and had ensured that schools and the local authority were ready for these changes.  The operational code was published in April and further implementation guidance was still awaited from WG which hopefully would be received before the end of term and discussions were ongoing regarding responses to a number of questions.  Schools were being supported with regard to the “person centred practice” which was core to this and Paula Roberts had been holding training sessions with regard to the code to ensure schools understood what was required of them.   


            As from the 1st January 2021 all schools were required to have an Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) together with an Additional Learning Needs Lead Officer for Early Years within the Council and she confirmed that these posts were now in place.  The Senior Manager provided an update on the ALNET multi agency work which included the Designated Clinical Lead Officer (DECLo) from Health. Information on the new system, the legal protection for children and grant funding which had been used to enable practicing ALNCos to support schools which had proved invaluable for them.  The Senior Manager finished by saying that WG viewed this as a cost neutral process but there were implications for the authority who had expanded the level of officers that were needed to implement the processes from September.   


            The Chief Officer was grateful for the hard work carried out by the Senior Manager, the Senior Learning Adviser and the team who had worked so hard to support schools.  It was because of this team effort that Flintshire was in a strong position with regard to this new Act.


            Councillor Mackie agreed with the Chief Officer and said the committee should also thank the Senior Learning Advisor for the work that she has done getting the authority to the place we were now.  Councillor Mackie asked the following questions:-


            Firstly at point 1.03 in the report he raised concerns that WG had set the timetable for the implementation but local authorities were still waiting for the guidance to be provided to support this.     The Senior Manager reported WG had worked hard to try and meet the deadline with pressure from schools and local authorities who were trying to push it back again.  The process had commenced in 2007 to provide legal support for all children requiring Additional Learning Needs and that the valid questions raised by Paula Roberts from her prospective in the role had enabled review and discussion.  She then provided information on the Commencement Orders with discussions taking place with the Minister to see if these could be revised.   WG were listening to the concerns raised and wanted to ensure this was carried out correctly.


            Secondly at point 1.08 Councillor Mackie asked for information on the IT system and asked if this was accessible for everyone.  The Senior Manager confirmed that the IT system would provide an effective tool for schools to record all interactions with parents, children and young people from the beginning because of the possibility of legal challenge and said that this had not been in place previously.  This would prove invaluable for the local authority and schools if cases were taken to tribunal as it recorded the level of intervention and support provided and ensured the Authority met it statutory responsibilities within the timescales set by the Act.  Parents were also able to access this information.  


            Thirdly at point 2.01 Councillor Mackie raised concerns about the last line “the expected increase in legal costs to respond to the anticipated level of legal challenge” He asked for more information on this.             The Senior Manager reported on the situation in England which changed its system in 2014 and was now a legalised system around Special Educational Needs.   With these changes the legal protection commenced at the point where a child may or may not be identified as having additional learning needs with the recourse to appeal by the child or parent from that point.  This had been raised with the Chief Officer and legal colleagues as there was a potential for a lot of legal activity because this was a new system.   The Chief Officer reported on the review by the Chief Officer team to identify the implications for the portfolio, finance and legal colleagues because of the Act.  As a local authority legal advice had been sought to ensure it was in the best position to advise and support schools to make sure they were ready for any potential challenges.  Support within the legal team would need to be factored in to ensure that capacity was in place.


            Mrs Bartlett referred to the enormous responsibilities of the ALNCo role in schools and asked if schools had been given guidance on whether this was a paid role and was this consistent across schools.  The Senior Manager agreed this was a very comprehensive role and confirmed that an exemplar job description was issued to schools with a recommendation from WG and the authority that this post should sit with a senior member of the leadership team within the school because of the complexity and importance involved.   As regards a salary the authority had provided advice when asked and she then reported on the different ways schools were providing this with some Head Teachers in the role and some having a number of staff working together with one designated person in that role to ensure the processes were in place. 


            Mrs Stark referred to the new IT system and asked if it was the ALNCo who had responsibility for inputting information for their school or would more staff be trained to do this.  She was concerned as there were legal ramifications if the information was not inputted correctly.    The Senior Manager confirmed that training initially would be provided for the ALNCos and agreed that there would need to be close monitoring of the information inputted onto the system to ensure it was accurate if taken to tribunals.  An IT System Administrator had been appointed to support the system which was called ECLIPSE and it was proposed a pilot would be launched in September.  This system had been purchased by four North Wales Authorities and there had been significant officer involvement to ensure it was working correctly and fit for purpose.  The Administrator would be delivering training on the system and supporting schools and it was hoped this would be in all schools by October.


The recommendation, outlined within the report, was moved and seconded by Councillor Gladys Healey and Mrs Rebecca Stark.




That Committee received and considered the report on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018.

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