£20m to improve ALN facilities
The Education Minister Jeremy Miles has announced £20m of funding for local authorities to improve or create inclusive spaces and facilities to support learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN).
The funding can be used, for example, to create quiet or sensory areas, upgrade or purchase new equipment such as specialist sensory aids, and for works to improve the inclusivity of learning environments.
The funding will be distributed via Local Authorities to support mainstream schools, special schools or pupil referral units.
The investment will support the implementation of the Additional Learning Needs Act, as well as supporting the delivery of the Curriculum for Wales by ensuring all learners are taught in classrooms and spaces with the technologies and facilities they need. The improvements will be led by local need and distribution of funding determined by local authorities.
Whitmore High School in Barry has recently completed a new specialist Autism Resource Base as a result of funding from the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.
The new base offers a quieter, low-arousal environment for students who need to complete work or take a moment to recuperate, quiet sensory rooms (complete with sensory lighting and sensory objects such as weighted blankets and fiddle toys), kitchen facilities for cookery sessions, outdoor space for physical activities and their own wellbeing dog, Daisy, who is an incredible support for the students.
Innes Robinson, Head of School says:
“Our Autism Base gives pupils a mainstream school experience within a specialist setting where empathy is embedded into every decision. We work closely with families and understand we are on an important journey with them. Our provision is a central part of Whitmore High School and we want our students to feel fully included in school life and have the same opportunities as other pupils.”
Ysgol Dinas Brân in Llangollen has also received previous ALN improvement funding as part of the Havens project, alongside other schools in Denbighshire. The Havens project is a model of creating spaces within mainstream schools which provide a bridge for pupils who find it difficult to attend mainstream schools full-time.
At Ysgol Dinas Brân, funding has been used to create a wellbeing space called Hafan. The Hafan includes a ‘green room’ for students to take time out when they need, and there is a focus on green space with an outdoor space for planting and seating where the pupils can relax and enjoy.
Headteacher Mark Hatch says:
“The area is working so well for students and has been a fantastic investment.’”
The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
“This investment will make a real difference to learners with additional needs across Wales, making sure they have the facilities they need to support their learning.
“I want to ensure we support and inspire all learners to reach their full potential, which is why implementing our Additional Learning Needs Act is central to our wider programme of educational reform.
“Estyn recently reported on the steady progress towards implementing ALN reform, and strong support from the sector. It’s important that investment in education settings underpins that progress.”
Notes to editors
There is an opportunity to film at Whitmore High School in Barry on Tuesday 4th October to demonstrate the impact that ALN improvements have made. To arrange, please contact email@example.com
- Whitmore High School’s Specialist Autism Resource Base, Vale of Glamorgan
The Autism Base at Whitmore High School is the first of its kind in the Vale of Glamorgan, and gives pupils with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder a mainstream school experience within a setting which has a high level of specialism and understanding of ASD, and also has empathy embedded into every decision.
The Base itself offers a quieter, low-arousal environment for any of our students who need to complete work here or take a moment to recuperate. Facilities include quiet sensory rooms (complete with sensory lighting and sensory objects such as weighted blankets and fiddle toys), kitchen facilities for cookery sessions and independent skills sessions, an outdoor space for physical activities and we also have our own wellbeing dog, Daisy, who is an incredible support for many of our students.
Provision in the Base is not a ‘one size fits all’ ethos, but is committed to individual pupils, their learning, their families and their long-term prospects. Some students are working towards their GCSEs, but there is also an understanding that education goes beyond the classroom, so there are also individualised sessions on topics such as emotional literacy, social skills and independent living skills such as cookery and travel training.
Many of our pupils attend after-school clubs and some are involved in the school’s sports teams. The aim is for pupils to access as many of their mainstream classes as possible, supported by our Learning Support Assistants from the Base. Our staff work closely with mainstream teachers to ensure our students are accessing the curriculum and are well-supported across the whole school.
“The Special Resource Base at Whitmore High has been instrumental in transforming my child from someone who had real trauma about school, was barely functioning and extremely unhappy, into a child who has hopes and aspirations for the future. My child started at the Base only being able to cope with half an hour a day and is now attending for a full day every day. His education is entirely (and necessarily) bespoke for him and as a result he is happy, interested and keen to go back each day. This has entirely been down to the skilled and experienced staff knowing exactly what my child needs – understanding, being listened to and being valued.”
- Havens project, Denbighshire
The Havens project runs across some secondary and primary schools in Denbighshire. It is a model of Havens – or hubs – that provide a necessary bridge for pupils finding it difficult to attend mainstream school full-time, but don’t meet the threshold for specialist provision. The Havens provide a place where students feel safe and can support their school readiness, develop their social communication skills and prepare them physically and emotionally for learning.
Ysgol Dinas Brân has significantly improved its facilities within the Additional Learning department with the help of a large sum of grant money from the Welsh Government.
The department has now developed the ‘Hafan’ to create a lovely environment for students to work, a ‘green room’ for students to take time out when they need, and two spaces for group interventions to take place.
Green space is an important part of the Hafan. Studies show the benefits of Biophilia for students, so a large, fenced area outside the Hafan has been created, incorporating raised beds for planting and seating for pupils to enjoy the area and relax in.