PMSFUK - Phelan McDermid Syndrome Foundation UK

Special Education Needs – Wales

The procedures for Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Wales follow the legislation laid down in the Education Act 1996. This act says that children with SEN are children who have a considerably greater difficulty in learning than others the same age. Some areas of Wales use the term additional learning needs (ALN) instead of SEN. A staged approach to SEN is used in Wales. Those stages are:

Early Years Action/School Action

Schools often need to adapt or differentiate what is on offer in the curriculum to enable children to progress, this stage goes beyond that. At this stage something additional and different needs to be put in place to meet the child’s agreed needs, for example support from another adult. Parents and the school or nursery’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or teachers would meet to discuss and agree what was needed. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) would be drawn up at this stage.

Early Years Action Plus/ School Action Plus

As school action but with a referral to outside services or specialist help, this could include things like speech therapy. Parents and the school or nursery’s SENCO would be involved in this decision and the IEP amended. If the child makes the expected progress they will not move through or beyond these stages. If they do not make the required progress a statutory assessment can be requested.

Children with complex needs will not need to go through these early stages but can be assessed for a statement straight away.

Statutory Assessment

Parents, the school or nursery or a health professional can request the local authority to start a statutory assessment. The assessment involves gathering written information about the child, their special educational needs and how those needs can best be met from a range of professionals who know the child and from parents. At this stage an educational psychologist will also be involved. It follows set procedures and must happen within set timeframes. The assessment does not always lead to a statement.

Statement of Special Educational Needs

The statement is a legal document that details a child’s special educational needs and the provision the local authority agrees to provide to meet them. The statement also specifies the school the child will attend. Parents have the right to choose the school, although in some cases the LA may not agree. As the statement is legally binding it is vital that everything the child needs is included.

Children under 2

If a young child has a condition which has caused concern from an early age parents or a health professional can request a statutory assessment and the LA must carry it out. It may not follow the same procedures as for an older child. Individual support would be considered first, statements for under 2’s are rare, but do exist.


The SEN Code of Practice for Wales makes it very clear that the English and Welsh languages must be treated equally, with parents having the opportunity to communicate in the language they choose.

Changes to the current system

The Welsh Government is proposing to reform the legislation which sets out the way learners with special educational needs can have their needs met. In May 2014 they published a White Paper setting out their proposals. The consultation on this White Paper ended on 25 July 2014.


To see the consultation documents go to:

For a parent’s guide to Special Educational needs in Wales go to:

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