Wales Education Bill receives Royal Assent

By Julian Hallett, Services Development Manager

On 24 January the long awaited Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill received Royal Assent.

Many of you will be aware that we have been working alongside Welsh Government and partners across the statutory and voluntary sectors in shaping this important legislation, since it was first proposed, more than a decade ago.

Those of you with children and young people of school age will naturally be asking what it will mean to you.

The Bill coming into force is just the beginning of a process. For the time being, the legal framework surrounding additional learning needs (i.e. your child’s statement) will remain the same. There will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes drafting additional documents to support the introduction of the new Bill.

Most importantly, the period ahead will see the drafting of a Code of Practice. This will be an essential working document from which local authorities and schools will receive guidance on how the new system of assessing the needs of children with additional needs will work; how the provision of support in schools will be managed and reviewed; and how children and their families will be informed of their rights under the new framework.

Headline changes in the new Bill include Early Years and Further Education stages of education being covered and the requirement for education and health services in each area to work more closely together in supporting the needs of children with additional learning needs.

The anticipated timetable is as follows:

  • 24th January 2018, Bill gains Royal Assent
  • March 2018 5 new Transformation Leads appointed (one for each of 4 regions of Wales and an All-Wales lead for Further Education)
  • Spring/summer of 2018 draft Code of Practice is written
  • Autumn 2018 a Code of Practice will be published for consultation (opportunities for the DSA and individual parents to submit responses to this consultation)
  • January 2019 onwards – training for all relevant education and health staff involved in supporting children with additional needs to be rolled-out
  • Early 2019 – publicity materials and resources informing families and children and young people of the new system will be produced and disseminated
  • September 2020 – first tranche of children and young people to be subject to the new regime to begin (current Statementing process to remain in force for others with phased movement across to new system over the period 2020 – 2023)
  • September 2023 all relevant children and young people to be covered by the new Individual Development Plan (in place of Statements)

There will be a requirement for Welsh Government to support the establishment of an advocacy service that operates within each local authority in Wales, further information relating to how this will operate will emerge over the coming 18 months or so.

We will, of course, share relevant information with you as soon as we can.