Implementation of education reforms



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The Children, Young People and Education Committee is monitoring the implementation of two key education reforms as they are being rolled out throughout the Sixth Senedd.



The Welsh Government is implementing two major education Acts passed in the last Senedd:


>>>The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021

>>>The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018



The new curriculum is a shift away from the heavily prescribed approach of the previous national curriculum. The Curriculum for Wales is intended to be purpose-led rather than content-based. Schools will have flexibility to design their own curricula, within a broad national framework.


The new curriculum is being introduced in primary schools in September 2022. By law it will be introduced in secondary schools no later than September 2023 for Year 7 and Year 8. However, secondary schools have the option to introduce it in Year 7 in September 2022 if they are ready to do so (nearly half of secondary schools will start teaching the new curriculum from September 2022). It will then be rolled out to an additional older year group, year by year, until it reaches Year 11 in 2026/27. Further information is available in this Senedd Research article.


The Additional Learning Needs (ALN) reforms affect around one in five pupils. The current Special Educational Needs (SEN) system was subject to review and proposed reform for over a decade until the 2018 Act. The current SEN system prescribed a three-tiered system. Under the 2018 Act, every learner with ALN will be given a statutory Individual Development Plan setting out their needs and what interventions they require. The new arrangements are being phased in over a three year period from September 2021 to July 2024. Further information is available in this Senedd Research article.


Both the curriculum and ALN reforms are challenging, ambitious programmes for change for an education system that has faced the task of managing the pandemic for the past two years. The levels of funding available to schools and the scale of professional learning and training required by the workforce are issues that have consistently been identified as critical to successful implementation.


Terms of reference

This inquiry will focus on:


>>>Implementation of the Curriculum for Wales in early years settings, primary schools and secondary schools.

>>>The level of consistency and equity of learning opportunities for pupils across Wales, given the flexibility for schools to develop their own curricula within a national framework.

>>>The associated reform of qualifications to align with the Curriculum for Wales.

>>>Implementation of the new Additional Learning Needs (ALN) system and the effective transfer of learners from the existing Special Educational Needs (SEN) system.

>>>The application of the definition of ALN, compared to presently for SEN, and whether there is any ‘raising of the bar’ on the ground for determining eligibility for provision.

>>>The professional learning and other support settings are receiving to ensure effective implementation of the Curriculum for Wales and the ALN system.

>>>Other factors potentially affecting implementation of the Curriculum for Wales and the ALN system, for example levels of funding and fall out from the pandemic.

>>>The particular challenges and opportunities facing different types of schools in varying circumstances (e.g. language medium, demographics and locality) in terms of implementing curriculum and ALN reform.



Evidence gathering

The Committee will carry out a series of short, focussed, thematic check-ins throughout the Sixth Senedd. Each check-in will involve some engagement activities (e.g. visits to schools to talk to staff, pupils and parents) and scrutiny of a Welsh Government Minister.


The focus of each inquiry can be determined by a case-by-case basis. The focus of each check-in is likely to be shaped by:


>>>the Welsh Government’s implementation plans and any other contextual information as highlighted by research staff and stakeholders;

>>>any learning from previous check-ins;

>>>any issues that have arisen from the open consultation; and

>>>any other concerns or areas of interest Members have at the time.



Based on the Welsh Government’s plans for implementation of the reforms, the Committee purpose is to carry out a check-in once or twice a year.


First ‘check in’ – July/September 2022


The Committee undertook its first ‘check in’ during the summer, including visits to schools and a scrutiny session with the Minister for Education and Welsh Language. This culminated in a letter (PDF 168KB) to the Minister regarding the numbers of learners currently deemed as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) who are identified as having ALN and transferred to the new ALN system. The Welsh Government responded (PDF 260KB), confirming that the definition of ALN is now being more rigorously applied than previously with SEN.


This Senedd Research article summarises the correspondence and the issues raised.



Second ‘check in’ – April/May 2023


The Committee undertook a second check in at the start of the 2023 summer term. The focus of this check in was the rollout of the ALN reforms in secondary schools and the rollout of the new curriculum for secondary schools that adopted it for year 7 pupils for the 2022-2023 academic year.


The Committee visited schools and held a scrutiny session with the Minister for Education and Welsh Language. The Senedd’s Citizen Engagement Team undertook engagement work with school staff, a report summarising these sessions has been published (PDF 243KB).

Following the Ministerial scrutiny session the Committee wrote to the Welsh Government (PDF 241KB), the Welsh Local Government Association (PDF 148KB), and the Welsh NHS Confederation (PDF148KB). We have received a response from the Welsh Government (PDF 335KB) and Welsh NHS Confederation (PDF 282KB).



The Committee has launched an open consultation based on the inquiry’s terms of reference.


The Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into childcare and education access for disabled children and young people and the extent to which childcare providers, schools and local authorities meet their duties under the Equality Act 2010. Evidence submitted to this inquiry that relates to the ALN system will also be considered as part of the childcare and education access for disabled children and young people inquiry.


Anyone with an interest in either the new curriculum or the ALN reforms – such as educators, stakeholders, pupils or parents - can submit their views on any element of the rollout of the education reforms at any point on their implementation journeys. You are welcome to submit as many responses as you want, as regularly as you want. They will all feed into the Committee’s decisions about how to focus its scrutiny.


The closing date for submissions is at the end of the Sixth Senedd (in 2026).


Further information on how to respond is available on the consultation page.

Business type: Committee Inquiry

Reason considered: Senedd Business;

First published: 03/05/2022