A recent Senedd monitoring report addressed the issue of whether Disabled Children and Young People have Equal Access to Education and Childcare.
Issues around available support for children with additional learning needs have been exacerbated since the pandemic. Pupils with ALN have been particularly vulnerable to the negative impact on mental health, stemming from the after-effects of COVID. This, coupled with a lack of resources, has served to create ongoing issues with many ALN students, such as poor attendance and exclusions.
The report states that “the availability and access to funding are the biggest barriers to support for ALN Students.” There is an evident gap in both staffing, and training, when it comes to addressing the needs of ALN students. This has led to a significant lack of support.
Whilst the wider issues of funding and staffing are an ongoing concern, there is some support available that can assist with the training and development of current staff members in schools and education settings, that can serve to develop the understanding of the requirements of ALN students.
Fully funded by the Welsh Government, the Supporting Teaching & Learning professional qualification offers a pathway whereby the learner can explore the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) transformation programme (Wales), including key legislation and statutory guidance. This pathway offers learning to cover supporting children and young people with behavioural, emotional and social development needs; cognition and learning needs; communication and interaction needs; sensory and/or physical needs; along with supporting disabled children and young people, and those with special educational needs.
By taking advantage of the funded opportunities for upskilling and development from Welsh Government, delivered by providers such as Aspire 2Be, this can assist with working to shorten the skills gap around ALN students and their requirements. The provision of ongoing CPD in schools can also serve to retain support staff, by offering them development opportunities within their role.