Update August 2017
The Bill is currently at Stage 2. Read more here, including link to summary August update which explains that the Minister has accepted 32 of the 47 recommendations from the Children, Young People and Education Committee, accepted a further four in principle, rejected seven and is still considering four others. The four that are still under consideration include making it more explicit within the Bill’s definition of ALN that medical conditions are to be deemed as ALN if they meet the criteria within that definition. The Minister said he is ‘considering the benefits and risks of an amendment to the definition of ALN in section 2 of the Bill to demonstrate its scope in relation to medical conditions’. Other recommendations still under consideration include extending the remit of the Tribunal to include power to direct health bodies.
The Welsh Government has run into difficulties over costings, following concerns raised by SNAP Cymru about dispute resolution and appeals. It has been reported that anticipated savings are down from £14.2 million to £3.7 million. The Welsh Government will now delay moving the financial resolution, see Record of Proceedings June 6 2017
The Minister subsequently said the Welsh Government will publish a revised Regulatory Impact Assessment in September and he will attend Finance Committee to discuss the updated cost estimates with Members. Alun Davies intends to then table and move a financial resolution in Plenary, after which point the Children, Young People and Education Committee can meet to consider amendments to the Bill at Stage 2. The Welsh Government has so far tabled two tranches of amendments and the Committee is scheduled to dispose of amendments on 4 October 2017, with a tabling deadline of 27 September 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.