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  • Writer's pictureFranck Banza

Special Needs Education in Wales

In my overarching mission to connect young people to opportunities and build a brighter future for everyone in Gower and Wales, my recent dialogues with an experienced and skilled Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) have been particularly enlightening. These discussions have highlighted the urgent challenges within our educational system, especially for children with autism, developmental delays, and neurodiversity. Understanding these challenges is crucial as we strive to ensure that every young person, regardless of their learning needs, has access to the opportunities they deserve. This commitment to transformative change underscores our dedication to an educational system that is inclusive, equitable, and capable of unlocking the potential within all our children.

These conversations reveal the harsh reality of our current educational landscape. With budget cuts diminishing already scarce resources, our teachers are expected to shoulder increasingly unsustainable burdens. The decision to cut Behaviour Support, substituting it with a "telephone forum" for teachers, is ill-suited to our times, especially considering the post-COVID-19 challenges in children's socialisation and public behaviour.

The role of the ALNCo, crucial in supporting our children, varies dramatically across schools. This variability, alongside the new Additional Learning Needs Code, has introduced a significant additional workload for teachers. Many are considering leaving their ALNCo roles to return to mainstream teaching. This potential loss of dedicated specialists highlights a system failing to support its most vulnerable pupils - children who, with the right support, could excel in numerous fields.

These children, brimming with potential, deserve more than reliance on the passion and goodwill of teachers forced to navigate a faltering system. Furthermore, the disjointed relationship between educational and healthcare services is a significant barrier. The journey to accessing ASD and ADHD diagnoses, for instance, can span up to three years - a delay that is unacceptable and detrimental to the development of our children.

This situation demands urgent, impactful action. In advocating for the children of Wales, I am committed to championing:

  1. Enhanced Support and Resources for ALNCo: It is essential to provide ALNCos with the necessary training, support, and fair compensation they deserve. Properly resourced ALNCos are pivotal to nurturing our children's development.

  2. Improved Education-Healthcare Collaboration: Streamlining the diagnosis process through better collaboration between schools and the NHS will ensure children receive the timely support they require.

  3. Restoration of Behaviour Support Funding: Given the increasing behavioural challenges in the wake of the pandemic, it is critical to reinforce, not reduce, behaviour support services.

  4. Empowerment for Families and teachers: Providing access to comprehensive resources and training for parents and teachers is essential for effectively supporting neurodiverse children.

  5. Customised Educational Approaches: Acknowledging the unique strengths and needs of neurodiverse children through tailored educational frameworks that foster their talents.

Our education system must recognise and cater to the individual needs of every child, championing an ethos of inclusion and support. The government's current direction not only hampers the potential of our neurodiverse children but challenges the very principles of equitable education.

As I continue to advocate for a brighter future for our children in Wales, I pledge to push for these necessary reforms, ensuring our education system offers every child the opportunity to thrive. Together, we can create an inclusive, equitable educational environment for all.

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