The term Additional Learning Needs (ALN) and Additional Learning Provision has replaced Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Special Educational Provision.
You might hear teachers and other professionals refer to your child’s ‘special educational needs’ – this means the same as additional learning needs.
The term ‘additional learning needs’ has a legal definition and refers to children and young people with learning, physical or sensory needs that make it harder to learn than most children of the same age.
The definition of ALN includes all of those regarded as having SEN, i.e. children and young people supported through School/Early Years Action, School/Early Years Action Plus and with statements of SEN). In addition, the term is also to be used for young people up to the age of 25 who are currently said to have Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD).
The majority of children with additional learning needs are educated within mainstream schooling and post-16 educational settings, perhaps with additional support in the classroom; however, a small number of children need to access Additional Learning Provision.
What are additional learning needs?
All children and young people learn in different ways and at different rates. In every class in every school there will be some pupils who progress at a slower rate than other children and have been identified as having an additional learning need.
Children with additional learning needs may require additional support in one or more areas, including:
- schoolwork – reading, writing, numeracy or understanding information
- expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
- making friends or relating to adults
- behaving appropriately at school
- medical, physical or sensory needs, which may affect their progress at school.
These needs may be long or short term.
If you are worried about your child
Parents/carers know their child better than anyone and may have worries about their child’s development before they start nursery or school.
If you are concerned, you should talk to one of the following:
- your child’s class teacher (or nursery teacher)
- the school’s designated Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo)
- the head teacher
- your health visitor or GP
- your social worker.
Alternatively, it might be your child’s nursery or school that picks up on a potential need for additional support.
Individual Education Plan (IEP)/Individual Development Plan (IDP)
The local education authority will usually carry out an assessment to determine what, if any, additional learning needs your child has and how he/she can be supported throughout their compulsory education.
This Individual Education Plan (IEP) sets out:
- specific academic, behavioural and physical targets for your child to work towards
- what extra support your child will receive in practice
- what progress is being made, i.e. how your child is responding to the additional support
- whether the targets have been met.
IEPs are kept under review and are considered at least twice a year.
Under the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill (passed in December 2017), Individual Development Plans (IDPs) will be introduced to support the learning needs of children and young people from birth up to 25.
The new system is set to commence in September 2020, when IDPs will replace IEPs.
Your rights and your child’s rights
All children under 18 are protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which means they have certain rights in law.
Parents have the right to appeal to the Education Tribunal for Wales if they are not happy with any decision taken by the local council in relation to their child.
This right has now been extended to children and young people, so that they can make an ALN appeal and a claim of Disability Discrimination even when their parent(s) does not appeal.
The council must provide advocacy support for children and young people exercising these rights.