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Welsh Government Reforms - How will schools cope?

View profile for Andrew Barrowclough
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Concerns have been raised after proposed changes from the Welsh government to change the way pupils’ needs are assessed and met.

At the moment, local authorities issue statements of special educational needs to pupils who fail to make appropriate progress at School Action or School Action Plus . Within these, there is an outline of the child’s difficulties and a description of what support will be given to them. According to the BBC, more than 12,400 pupils have been issued one of these statements, following an assessment by their local authority in Wales. However, the Welsh government are looking to change this.

In the new proposals the government are looking to give the responsibility of assessing a pupil’s needs to the school. The proposed plans are set out in the Additional Learning Needs Bill that is currently proposing a completely different legislative system in Wales compared to England for supporting children and young people with ‘additional learning needs.’

One of many concerns of HCB Solicitors is how the relationship between you as a parent and your child’s school could be affected. A relationship that should be built on trust, understanding and positivity could potentially suffer.

It is vital that you have the correct support and advice when it comes to your child’s education and how the new changes could affect your child’s education. As you may be aware, education funding is already low as a result of cuts, making it difficult for local authorities to keep on top of their workload. Are schools, who are directly involved in educating your child likely to be able to assess their individual additional learning needs? Is this likely to cause additional pressure on schools, which could effectively impact on your child’s education?

The current plan is to allow children to have statutory protection down to the School Action level (although that stage of the Code of Practice will be abolished to be replaced by the Individual Development Plan system). Whilst legally this will be good it is impossible to imagine how schools will deal with the additional workload.

We agree that the current system in Wales is in need of change, with the Welsh government themselves saying that the system is; "complex, bewildering and adversarial". The problem however is that a system delegated to schools is more vague, they will be far too busy and it is easier for vulnerable young people to be missed by the system.

Our role at HCB is to work with you as parents, helping you to obtain an education that your child deserves. The system is already complex and it’s vitally important that you receive the correct advice. Regarding these changes. At HCB we are specialists within the education law sector, with lawyers who specialise within the above areas on a daily basis. If you have any questions or concerns relating to the above, please contact a member of our team who will happily discuss this with you.