The term ‘additional learning needs‘ (ALN) has a legal definition and refers to children and young people who have learning, physical or sensory needs which make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age.
Additional learning needs is gradually replacing two old systems/terms:
- special education needs (SEN): for learners of compulsory school age who need additional support
- learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD): for learners in further education
The rolling out of this new system began in September 2021 for children of compulsory school age and is expected to continue until summer 2024 for young people up to 25.
What are additional learning needs?
All children and young people learn in different ways and at different rates.
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.
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 will need to access specialist education provision.
Individual development plan (IDP)
Every young person with ALN will have an individual development plan, which is which reflects their views, wishes and aspirations. As a parent/carer, you will also be expected to have input into your child’s IDP.
This plan will determine what additional learning needs your child has and how he/she can be supported throughout their compulsory education and beyond.
The new system focuses on ensuring that where disagreements occur about an IDP or the provision it contains, the matter is considered and resolved at the most local level possible.
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.
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.