PACEY Cymru response to the Children, Young People and Education Committee consultation on the general principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill – March 2017

 

1.      Background

 

This is PACEY Cymru’s response to the Children, Young People and Education Committee consultation.  PACEY Cymru are grateful for the opportunity to put forward information for consideration under this consultation.  This response is provided in relation to our area of expertise, which is from the perspective of the childcare and early years sector.  PACEY Cymru have not commented on areas where it is felt that other organisations may be better placed to provide a response.

 

We have also given some key points for consideration where there are links between the Bill and the Draft Additional Learning Needs Code though we are aware this will be consulted on separately.

 

PACEY Cymru would like to suggest consideration of the following in order to support the capacity of the workforce within the childcare and early years’ sector to prepare for and deliver the new arrangements from the ALN Bill.

 

2.        Comments and key points for consideration on the Bill

 

2a.    Identification of ALN in pre-school settings

 

PACEY Cymru welcome the step this Bill provides to ensure there is consistency in support for all learners from 0 – 25 years with ALN.  This includes recognition of the importance of early identification of ALN, timely support and flexibility to adapt plans promptly in order to meet individual needs.  PACEY Cymru also welcomes the recognition that the Bill gives to the role that childcare providers, along with other professionals, have in identifying needs and concerns in the early years.  The role of the Additional Learning Needs Coordinator (ALNCo.) within each childcare and early years settings is, and will continue to be, key in relation to liaison.  The draft Additional Learning Needs Code clearly defines the role that the ALNCo has in supporting and facilitating links and smooth transitions between these, other settings, schools and other services.

 

PACEY Cymru wish for this to be further strengthened within the Draft Additional Learning Needs Code under section 9.1.5 that professionals working in childcare and early years setting with children of pre-school age are listed as those who can bring individual’s cases to the attention of a Local Authority in line with their role in identifying and reporting ALN.

 

2b. Parental choice and child centred-approach

 

PACEY Cymru feels strongly that the child should be central to the planning of any arrangements and this comes across strongly in the Bill and the supporting Draft Additional Needs Code, on the whole, where the emphasis is on increased participation of children and young people, partnership working, and a child-centred, holistic approach.

 

PACEY Cymru understand from the Bill that the duties relating to ALN provision for children under statutory school age would be with the local authority.  The relationship between the local authority and settings is unclear within this Bill, although how this would work in practice should be addressed within the Draft Additional Learning Needs Code and will be covered in a separate consultation.

 

Section 13.2 of The Draft Additional Learning Needs Code sets out the duty Local Authorities have in favouring educating children in mainstream schools, including maintained nurseries.  PACEY Cymru believe that further clarification is required to define what this means in relation to pre-school children where the definitions and use of terminology between care and education are more blurred to avoid varying interpretations of this for children before the compulsory education age.

 

PACEY Cymru advocates for parental choice and a child-centred approach, which places the needs of the child on an individual basis first.  In this respect, the ALN Bill should allow for consideration on an individual basis of the most suitable approach, format and setting to meet the needs of a child in the pre-school years.  Whilst it is extremely important that all settings are inclusive and open to children with ALN, not all children thrive in a formal education or mainstream setting specifically in the early years.  Assessment of the needs of a child should be focused on their needs and interests, where children and families identify alternative options would better meet their needs, these should be available.

 

3a. Childcare regulations and standards

 

PACEY Cymru would suggest consideration of whether any changes are needed to the Childminding and Daycare Regulations Wales, and the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare (Wales).  The National Minimum Standards sets the minimum requirements for childcare providers, Standard 4.5 makes reference to the current Code of Practice for Special Education Needs (or Additional Learning Needs).  It is not clear from the Bill or Draft Additional Learning Needs Code what role childcare and early years providers will have in supporting the development of Individual Development Plans.  The duty to maintain these will sit with the Local Authority but partnership working and a joined up approach is key.  If this is strengthened then consideration needs to be given around review of the associated Childminding and Daycare Regulations Wales, and the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare (Wales).

 

PACEY Cymru welcome the recent release by CSSIW of a guide to support implementation of the new inspection framework, which provides good practice guidance with a strong emphasis on meeting children’s individual needs.   There is good practice guidance under section 2.3 on ALN which could help to guide the childcare and early years on supporting the implementation of the new ALN Bill.  The introduction of ratings should also encourage childcare providers to raise standards of care in this respect.  There again needs to be a consistent approach in relation to the Bill and Additional Needs Code within the inspection framework and this make need to be looked at more closely by CSSIW to ensure standardisation of regulation and inspection.

 

3b. Information, training, guidance and resources

 

PACEY Cymru understand that there are plans for local authorities to roll out information and training to support ‘core skills development’ within plans for workforce development, which is welcomed.  As the reach of the ALN Bill includes children younger than those in settings funded to deliver education training, information and support needs to be promoted to, available and accessible to the wider childcare and early years sector.  Having not traditionally fallen within the remit of educational needs, it will be especially important to ensure that settings are aware of and understand the ALN Bill, and are able to respond to this in the service they provide.

 

In anticipation of implementation PACEY Cymru would suggest that information and advice is widely publicised regarding the local authority role and support available to raise awareness with both parents and professionals working with children under statutory school age.  PACEY Cymru would suggest that for childcare and early years professionals, this could be supported through the provision of local training and information packs specific to the sector on the Additional Learning Needs Code.  This should include clear advice on who to contact within their local authority area for further information and how to signpost families to support.

 

The Early Support resou