Additional learning needs: More time for reform of system in Wales

Pupil learning Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new support system had been due to be rolled out in 2020

A new system for supporting children with additional learning needs will be introduced a year later than planned.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said there was insufficient time to get the new rules in place to ensure schools, colleges and councils are ready.

The changes are meant to provide a simpler and less adversarial process for agreeing a child's needs.

Education charity Snap Cymru said the delay would prolong a situation which has been "chaos for years".

The changes will introduce individual learning plans for children and young people up to 25 with additional learning needs, like autism, Asperger's syndrome and Attention, Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

They will replace the current "statements" of special educational need.

It was due to be rolled out from September 2020 but in a written statement to Welsh Assembly members, the education minister said she wanted to make sure the changes were fully understood as well as being "fair, clear and manageable".

"This is a crucial piece of legislation and it is vital that we listen to key stakeholders to ensure we get this right," said Ms Williams.

"I would like to make it absolutely clear that learners and families will continue to have their needs met in advance of the implementation of the new additional learning needs system".

'Get it right'

Denise Inger, chief executive of Snap Cymru, said delaying was the right decision.

"What the Welsh Government is trying to achieve in principle is right, most children and young people's needs should be met within their local mainstream schools but schools are not ready in capacity and resources and most will say there are insufficient funds," she said.

But she said it would prolong a situation which has been "chaos for years".

"Local authorities across Wales are working to their own policies and it is not good for children and families to be in this mire," she added.

"When a parent has a child with disabilities or a child without a diagnosis who's struggling in school, they want a very clear system."

Teaching union Ucac said the announcement of a delay had come as a surprise.

Rebecca Williams, deputy general secretary, said it welcomed the extra year to ensure that the new additional learning needs system was "implemented effectively".

"Ucac believes that when it comes to large-scale reform, it is better to take the time to get it right," she added.

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