How children with Additional Learning Needs are supported is changing: Important information for families


The Welsh Government is changing the way that children and young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN) will be supported. The term Additional Learning Needs (ALN) will replace the term Special Educational Needs (SEN).

The changes are set out in the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal Act (ALNET) 2018, and the ALN Code (2021).  The Welsh Government's aim is to create a support system for children and young people aged 0 - 25 years and to make it easier for families to access the help and support they require.

All children and young people who transfer to the ALN approach will have an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is a statutory plan and it will replace both Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and statements of SEN.  

The ALN Code requires schools and local authorities to use a person-centred approach to ensure that the views of learners and parents are considered, and that children and young people are involved in the planning process. There will be a focus on improved collaboration and information sharing between agencies to ensure needs are identified early and the right support is put in place.

During the three-year implementation period, which began in September 2021, all children and young people in Year 11 or below who have special educational needs (SEN) will transfer from the SEN system to the Additional Learning Needs approach. This means that during the implementation period both the new and old systems will operate alongside each other, until all children and young people in these year groups have transferred to the ALN approach. 

Young people currently in year 12 or above will continue on the SEN system and will not transfer to the ALN approach. 

Other core aims include;

  • High Aspirations and Improved Outcomes -The use of IDPs will ensure that plans are made with realistic and achievable outcomes that ensure children and young people are being supported to achieve their full potential.
  • Avoiding disagreements and earlier disagreement resolutions -The new system puts a focus on resolving disagreements around IDPs or provisions at as local level as possible i.e. within schools/ through ALN helpline.
  • Clear and consistent rights of appeal -Where disagreements around IDPs or provisions are unable to be solved at a local level, all children, young people and their parents will have a right of appeal to a tribunal.
  • A mandatory code -Local authorities and other organisations will follow a legal code to ensure enforceable parameters in the delivery of service for children and young people.

Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry said: "Ensuring that all children and young people can access good quality education is our priority and in Cardiff we are committed to making sure that the right support and help is provided so that all of our learners can flourish.

"For the families of children and young people with Additional Learning Needs, identifying the right help and support can sometimes feel overwhelming. This new system looks to make the process  as accessible  and transparent as possible and through collaborative working with families, schools, the local authority and partner agencies, we can make certain that the individual needs of the child are met and that they can reach their full potential."

Cllr Merry added: "Essentially, the new system recognises that theviews, wishes and feelings of the child or young person should be at the heart of decision making, further strengthening Cardiff's ambition of becoming a UNICEF UK Child Friendly City where the voices of children and young people are heard." 

Families with children affected by the changes will be contacted by letter shortly.

You can access more information about the new ALNET Act

Welsh Government Frequently Asked Questions can be found here: