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Additional Learning Needs

I have never really liked the term ‘special needs’. Every child is special and every child has needs, so I therefore have previously used Specific Needs.

Just as I have never really liked the term ‘disabililty’. Ryan and I use and much prefer ‘diffability’; to mean Different Abilities.

Later in this post, I talk about the statutory assessment process that we went through with Ryan who now has a legally binding document setting out his specific educational needs. My original intent for the focus of this post was to go into greater detail on the 26-week assessment process and discuss Ryan’s statement, to offer advice to anyone embarking on a similar journey.     

I have, however, now changed my mind on the focus of this post and decided instead to discuss additional needs. I will therefore not to bore you with all the details of statementing for 2 reasons:

First, it is 16 pages long and secondly, from 2014, statements no longer exist. They have been/are being phased out across the UK and are being replaced with an alternative system “which is more flexible, needs-led and less bureaucratic” (Quote from council documentation) called Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

The term SEN - special educational needs has now also been replaced (yay) with ALN – additional learning needs.

There is lots of information about these new plans on various news sites if you do a quick Google search and the NAS has a very good pdf document detailing the new proposals.  I am no expert on this new system as Ryan’s statement will still continue for him. 

Children have additional learning needs if they have a learning difficulty, which calls for additional educational provision to be made for them.

This short definition emphasises the two key phrases that are part of the full legal description of special educational needs found in the Education Act.  The term SEN is no longer considered acceptable and ALN is now universally used in its place. 

Put simply, children with additional learning needs may find it harder to learn than most children of the same age, or have a disability, which makes it difficult for them to take part in school life. As a result they may need extra or different help to make the most of the learning opportunities offered by the school.

Learning difficulties can mean:
·        Difficulties in some or all areas of work.
·        Particular problems with reading, writing or mathematics.
·        Emotional, behavioural problems or organisational difficulties.
·        A physical disability.
·        A medical or health problem.
·        A sight, hearing or speech difficulty.
·        A general delay in development.
·        Expressing themselves and understanding what others are saying.

What is ALN provision?

ALN provision is the different or extra help given to children that face barriers to their learning. This provision can mean extra support in class, different strategies or approaches, small group work or individual help.  It can also mean individual or group work outside the classroom or additional help from specialists outside the school.

How many children have ALN?

20% of children on average have additional learning needs at some point in their school life.  Some children may have additional learning needs for a short time; other will require additional provision throughout school.  Children may have needs in particular curriculum areas or subjects, whilst others will require support in most aspects of their education.

Stage 1 – School Action.

The school with your assistance will coordinate appropriate help within the class such as: Different learning materials or equipment; Small group support or individual attention; Help from an extra adult; Different ways of teaching things; and create one or more of the following:
·        Individual Educational Plan
·        Behavioural Plan
·        Pastoral Support Plan
·        Personal Educational Plan
Which documents what the school will do to help your child and what is required from your child to help themselves. It will include: Short term targets for your child; Ways in which the teachers will work your child to achieve these targets; The additional support the school will provide through it’s own resources e.g. additional learning support time; How you can help your child achieve their targets at home e.g. reading with your child every day; A review date which should be at least twice a year. Ideally reviewed termly.

If you child does not make enough progress despite support from within the school setting, continues to make little or no progress in certain areas or continues to work at levels well below that expected of children at similar age, the teacher and ALNCo with you agreement may involve specialists from outside the school.

Stage 2 – School Action+

Outside agencies such as:
·        GP
·        Specialist Teachers
·        Educational Psychologists
·        Speech and language therapists or other health professionals.
·        SNAP

Will help with assessing your child’s needs and can provide the school with advise and strategies for new targets.

Stage 3 – Statutory Assessment

School action and School action+ have still not helped you child to access the curriculum or catch up to a level you would expect then a very small number of children with significant difficulties will require their needs to be considered in greater depth.  A statutory assessment can be requested by you as a parent or by the school or even better by both to the Local Educational Authority (LEA).  It is a very detailed investigation of a child’s Educational Needs and what additional support they require to meet those needs.  

Ryan was issued with a statement of educational needs in 2010, after I fought for 5 years to have his needs assessed.  He did go through all of the stages as I have previously told in our story to date.

It really helped all of the stages I have been through to keep a diary all of Ryan’s life detailing: illnesses; diet; exclusions; sensory issues; meltdowns; developmental stages, to name but a few.

The more you record the more evidence you will have and the more detailed, specialised, personalised assistance can be tailored for your child.

It is about knowing your rights and fighting for the rights of your child to receive a full inclusive education.

Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I remember,
Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin


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