THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has introduced a new law aimed at supporting learners with additional learning needs (ALN).
If passed, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (ALNET) Bill will completely overhaul the system for supporting pupils with ALN, affecting every classroom in Wales.
The Bill will place the learner at the heart of that process and will make the system far simpler and less adversarial for those involved, a common complaint of the current system.
It is part of a wider programme aimed at transforming the additional learning needs system to secure successful futures for all learners.
Nearly a quarter of learners in Wales will experience some form of additional learning need during their early years or education. The current legislative framework for supporting them is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago, which is widely recognised to no longer be fit for purpose.
Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, said: “I believe that everyone in Wales should be able to access education that meets their needs and enables them to participate in, benefit from and, hopefully, enjoy the learning experience.
“Last year, just 23% of learners with ALN achieved five good GCSEs including Maths and Welsh or English compared to 59% of all pupils. We must improve on this.
“The current system is simply no longer fit for purpose and this Bill will bring the entire legislative framework into the 21st century, enabling us to effectively support learners with ALN throughout their educational journey.
“This is a landmark moment for Welsh education and is the result of months and months of work with our partners, including teachers, parents, local government, the NHS, and third sector. I am grateful to them all for their help in getting us to this stage. Their valuable contribution has given us a far greater understanding of the challenges we face and the need to be flexible as we manage change.
“It is important to remember that this is far from a peripheral issue; it affects a quarter of learners in Wales and the improvements we are proposing here can lead to better educational outcomes for all of our learners. Getting things right for our ALN learners will mean getting it right for all learners, so it’s about whole system improvement and, therefore, is a cornerstone of our ambitious programme of education reform in Wales.”
The Minister also said that while wholesale reform is necessary, we have worked closely with others to ensure these important changes are operationally sound and can be delivered in partnership within a reasonable time frame. Significant support, including £2.1m recently announced to fund innovation and partnership working across Wales, will be put in place to assist delivery partners to transition from the current to new systems.
“The ALNET Bill is only one aspect, albeit a fundamental one, of the wider package of reforms necessary in Wales. Our ALN Transformation Programme also focuses on skills development for the education workforce, to deliver effective support to learners with ALN in the classroom, as well as more effective access to specialist support, information and advice. At the heart of all of our reforms is a focus on inclusion; putting children and young people at the centre, and ensuring they are supported to reach their full potential.”
Wales’ teaching union, UCAC welcomed the Bill.
“Nevertheless, we have some concerns regarding the new Bill,” said Ywain Myfyr, Policy Officer with the union. “We need certainty that the funding level for ALN will be sufficient and that local authorities will be prevented from cutting ALN budgets.
“UCAC has grave concerns that the new measures may add significantly to the workload of Additional Learning Needs Coordinators. The role of the Coordinator must be assessed and considered and we must ensure that the workload is effectively managed.
“UCAC believes that Welsh language ALN provision should be available to everyone. We believe that the Bill should include a statement that sets out the expectations regarding Welsh medium provision – not only in terms of educational provision but also the right to follow the whole process through the medium of Welsh,” said Ywain Myfyr.
“Accessing the provision or administration of the process in Welsh must not delay, or in any way be inferior to the user.”
Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live
ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discussed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live last Thursday (Sept 28).
Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.
Her research into poison arrow frogs featured as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’, hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.
An evolutionary biologist from Peru, Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.
She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.
Apply for six-month traineeship scheme
IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.
The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.
Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.
“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”
The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.
This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment.
The closing date for applications is October 24 with interviews to be held on November 6.
Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website atwww.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing email@example.com.
Committee concerned at £12.7m error
A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.
In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.
But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.
The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.
“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.
“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.
“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”
The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.
The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.
The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.
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