Additional learning needs in Wales

In Wales, the term ‘additional learning needs’ is used for children and young people who have special educational needs and disabilities.

This page gives a brief overview of the additional learning needs system (ALN system), introduced in September 2021 and being phased in by the summer of 2024.

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Children with additional learning needs

In Wales, it is recognised that not all children learn at the same speed. 

Although teachers plan lessons and choose teaching materials to help each child learn the best they can, some children may have more difficulty than other children of the same age with:

  • Reading, writing and numbers.
  • Talking and listening.
  • Developing social skills.
  • Physical skills.
  • Emotion, mental health and behaviour.

In Wales, a child or young person who needs extra support with any of these is said to have additional learning needs (ALN).

What support do children with ALN receive?

Most children and young people with ALN go to a mainstream nursery, school or college. 

Nurseries, schools, and colleges must support children and young people with ALN and treat them fairly. 

A teacher or teaching assistant could give your child individual support or support in a small group. 

Or your child might get extra support from a visiting specialist teacher or professional. For example, a speech and language therapist.

Nurseries, schools, and colleges also support children with health conditions, including support to manage medications, personal care and catching up after a period of absence.

Who can I talk to if I’m concerned about my child’s ALN?

All mainstream maintained schools and colleges in Wales must have at least one person who is responsible for support for children or young people with ALN. 

They are the additional learning needs coordinator (ALNCo).

If you are concerned, talk to the ALNCo about your worries. Give examples and ask them what extra support your child might be able to get.

The ALN system

The ALN system was introduced on 1 September 2021 to replace the special educational needs (SEN) system and will be phased in by the summer of 2024. 

Children who started to receive support after 1 September 2021 receive support under the ALN system.

Children receiving support under the SEN system will gradually transfer to the ALN system by August 2025.

Individual development plans

Under the ALN system, children and young people with ALN receive extra support through an individual development plan (IDP). 

The IDP replaces Statutory Assessments and Statements of SEN, which are part of the SEN system now being phased out. 

If your child has a Statement of SEN, this will continue to be in place until it is replaced by an IDP.

This content was last reviewed in May 2024. We’ll review it again in 2026.