Number 1 concern for schools is Additional Learning Needs says Shadow Minister for Education and the Welsh Language

THE number 1 concern for schools is Additional Learning Needs according to Conservative MS Laura Anne Jones.

During the Plenary of 14th March the MS questioned the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language Jeremy Miles MS. She said that  since having her education shadow portfolio, she had undertaken a tour of schools across Wales, and resoundingly, the No. 1 concern that they raise  is ALN, additional learning needs.

The Conservative MS said: “Reform was needed and no-one disagrees with that, but there are significant concerns about the reality of what is now happening in schools on the ground. Transferring those already diagnosed or identified onto the new ALN has been relatively straightforward, but all those, particularly younger aged children and young people who need to be identified for the first time, are taking worryingly long to be identified or diagnosed, and the waiting time for these children to get that support that they desperately need is astronomically long and extremely concerning to parents, teachers and, of course, heads.

“This is not only detrimentally affecting the child or young person in question, as they cannot receive that vital one-to-one support or support that they need, but it equates to them missing out on an education that they need and deserve. It will also mean that a teacher in a class has to focus on the needs of that child who is struggling, which will, of course, have a detrimental effect on the rest of the class as their learning time will be cut short. This isn’t just a problem—it’s a huge problem, Minister, and differs massively between the 22 local authorities. You’re currently failing children across Wales and it can’t go on. Heads of these schools are crying out to this Welsh Government for a national solution to this. So, what are you doing as a Government to urgently sort out this problem and ensure that no child misses out on the education that they deserve?

Jeremy Miles MS thanked her for the  the work that she was doing to improve her knowledge at first hand through speaking to schools right across Wales about the implications of the ALN reform. He said: “As she said, it’s an important set of reforms and it’s one that I know all parts of the Chamber are committed to. She says that transferring young people who are currently in the system onto the new system is straightforward—if she’s hearing that, I’m very pleased. My experience of talking to teachers is that, actually, there are quite a lot of challenges in doing that, given the numbers involved and the timescales that they’re working to. So, I don’t think that we should underestimate that that is a challenge for schools as well.

“We’ve invested over £76 million so far in preparing the sector for implementing the reforms for the next financial year. We’ve increased the annual budget by £4.5 million to £25.5 million, and in this financial year, we’ve invested £36.6 million to support implementation, which includes a significant investment in capital costs, but also in additional support for the teaching profession as well.

“She will know, I think, that, in relation to a national approach, which I think was the focus of her question, we’ve identified transformation leads, which are looking at a Wales-wide approach. As she will know, we’ve adopted a regional approach to rolling out the early stages, but we’ve got to the point of transition, which requires, as she says in her question, a national approach. So, whether it’s to do with Welsh language provision or a range of others, we’ve appointed transformation leads who will co-ordinate the picture on a national basis, and she will also, I hope, be reassured to know that the programme for workforce development, whilst also drawing, of course, on the work of local authorities and school improvement services, also benefits from a national professional learning programme aimed at ALNCOs, teachers and lecturers so they can develop on an equivalent basis right across Wales.”

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