The voice of specialist further education

Post school choices in Wales

Additional Learning Needs (ALN) transformation in Wales is seeing significant changes for the way learners with complex learning needs access post-school education and training.

General Further Education Colleges called Further Education Institutions (FEIs) in Wales are expected to meet the needs of learners with increasingly complex ALN.

Wales has seven specialist colleges and unlike in England where a specialist college can be named on a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), there is no legal entitlement to request the specialist provision of a learners or parents’ choice in Wales.

Statutory guidance in the ALN Code for Wales (2021) states

In order to achieve their potential, young people with ALN may need additional learning provision (ALP) to access education or training which is made generally for others of the same age, or they may have need of education or training which is specifically designed for people with ALN. In both cases, the expectation is that mainstream FEIs, and in some cases, maintained schools, will usually be able to meet the education or training needs of the majority of young people who have ALN

(ALN Code, Chapter 17,paragraph 24).

Placements at specialist colleges

To date, learners requiring places at specialist colleges have been supported by Careers Wales Advisors who have progressed applications with a central Welsh Government Support for Learners Division who have funded and monitored placements. This department also serves as lead commissioner when learners require funding from Health and/or social care budgets.

Under the reforms Careers Wales Advisors will have no statutory responsibilities and funding for learners whose additional learning provision (ALP) is specialist college is being devolved to local authority responsibility.

Learners will have an Individual Development Plan (IDP), akin to an EHCP that will typically be maintained by schools and transfer to FEIs when learners progress to them. In the circumstances when an FEI states that they are unable to meet a learners ALN, responsibility passes to local authorities to decide if the learner has a ‘reasonable need’ for education and training. If it is decided that they do, then a placement at a specialist college may be sought.

Welsh Government have published guidance for parents and families on how and when learners will move to the new system.

Equitable access to further education for learners with complex ALN

Natspec is concerned that the ALN Code is at odds with the intentions of the Act and that there are significant blocks in the road to an inclusive FE system in Wales. We share the concerns of the Third Sector Additional Needs Alliance  (TSANA) that without clarity from Welsh Government on their expectations of local authorities that the reforms will result in a drop in the number of learners with complex ALN being able to access further education.

For more information contact Natspec Policy Officer (Wales) Kirsten Jones at

Advice and support

SNAP Cymru

SNAP Cymru provides information, advice and support for parents, children and young people who have or may have special educational needs or disabilities.

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