On December 12th 2016 the Welsh Government made a statement about the new Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill and laid the Bill before the Assembly, together with an Explanatory Memorandum incorporating the Regulatory Impact Assessment and Explanatory Notes, plus the Bill timetable. The Committee will look at the Bill, beginning December 14th 2016. A full public consultation on the options for phasing in the new system will take place in 2017.
Previously, in July 2016 the Welsh Government published a commentary on responses to the 2015 Additional Learning Needs consultation. At the same time, Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language noted "misunderstandings of our intentions or the anticipated practical impact of our proposals" as well as "direct concerns about specific aspects of the proposals" I blogged what parents were saying here
How Does The Additional Learning Needs Bill Become Law?
On July 14th 2016 the Welsh Government said it expected publication of the new Additional Learning Needs Bill before Christmas.
In terms of legislative scrutiny, there is a significant difference between England and Wales in that Wales does not have a Second Chamber (House of Lords) The Business Committee sets the deadline for various stages, so committees and debates don't go on indefinitely.
It may well be that a lot of the detail is kept back for secondary legislation or for a new ALN Code of Practice. A draft illustrative Code was published in 2015 but this will not necessarily be particularly relevant. We have been told that a new iteration of the Code will be published during scrutiny of the Bill but this might not be till stage 2 ie Spring 2017 at the earliest.
Stage 1 The committee will consider "general principles" of the Bill, and will ask for written and oral evidence from interested parties, as well as holding meetings to take oral evidence from a range of interested stakeholders. The committee will then publish a Stage 1 Report, which may contain recommendations for amendments to the Bill. After at least 5 working days, there is a Stage 1 debate in the Assembly where AMs could raise issues on behalf of constituents.
Stage 2 After the Stage 1 debate and vote, there will either be a small group committee (made up of selected Assembly Members) or "a Committee of the Whole Assembly". This decision is made by the Business Committee. Whichever committee is chosen then begins to go through the Bill line by line, considering whether to accept amendments to the Bill. Stage 2 amendments must be tabled by committee members at least 5 working days before the meeting at which they are to be considered. (See page 13 for more details on who can table amendments and vote on them here.)
I would expect a new version of the Code of Practice to be available at some point during stage 2, although this will likely change again several times more. Stage 2 ends with a new version of the Bill being published.
Stage 3 provides a chance for ALL Assembly Members to table amendments and to vote on the details of the Bill (although not all amendments are necessarily selected for debate AND there may be a time limit) At least 15 days must pass between the end of Stage 2 and the first Stage 3 debate. You can read the transcript of these debates within 24 hours. At the end of Stage 3 an "amended at Stage 3" version will be published.
Report Stage is optional. The Assembly may return to issues in the Bill during Report stage, for example if significant changes have been made during Stage 3. This is the LAST time anything can be changed.
Stage 4 At Stage 4 the Assembly will vote on a motion to pass the final text of the Bill, and then if there is no legal challenge, the Bill will receive Royal Assent and become an Act.
NB not all sections of the Act will necessarily come into force at the start; for example the Social Services and Wellbeing Act took 2 years
In Wales, the term "special educational needs" [SEN] has been replaced by "additional learning needs" [ALN].
In July 2015 the Welsh Government launched a consultation on the Draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. Comments were requested by December 2015. A new draft Additional Learning Needs Code of Practice was also published at the end of September 2015.
The proposals in the draft Bill largely follow the proposals set out in the 2014 White Paper, notably a single category of 'Additional Learning Needs' to replace Statements, School Action, and School Action Plus.
Archived page as pdf with full details of earlier proposals here
Sinclair Law consultation response 2015, Mike Charles LINK highlights the danger of removing the statutory assessment leaving a general requirement upon schools to identify need as opposed to to a prescribed system of expert assessments.
Welsh Government clarification November 2015: " In the case of those learners whose needs are complex and severe, the draft Bill would empower schools to refer cases to local authorities as needed ..." Sinclair Law comment December 2015 LINK "this proposed bill, if passed, will not only send schools into battle with parents, but will most certainly lead to potential litigation.