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ALN - Frequently asked questions

Questions parents / carers often ask about Additional Learning Needs

What are Additional Learning Needs (ALN)?

A child with Additional Learning Needs will have a learning difficulty or a disability that will make it harder for them to learn than most children of the same age. A child with Additional Learning Needs may need extra support or help that is different to that given to other children. 

A child with Additional Learning Needs may need extra help because of a range of needs, such as thinking and understanding, physical or sensory difficulties with speech and language, or how they relate to and behave with other people.

What is a Parent Partnership Service?

All local authorities have a statutory duty to provide Parent Partnership Services. It is a free and confidential service which provides impartial information, advice and support to parents and carers of children with Additional Learning Needs.

What is school action?

When a class teacher or ALNCo identifies a child with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) they should provide support that is additional to (or different from) that which is provided as part of the school's usual differentiated curriculum. The school must tell you when they first start providing extra or different help for your child because of their ALN and they must keep you informed of your child's progress.

What is school action plus?

If your child is still not making enough progress in school, the class teacher or the ALNCo should talk to you about seeking advice from other people outside the school. At this stage, the school may seek advice and support from external services, both those provided by the council and outside agencies (eg. Specialist Teacher, Educational Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT) or Health Professional(s).

What is an annual review?

At least once a year your child's ID(E)P will be reviewed and a meeting arranged to discuss your child's progress. This is called an annual review. The purpose of the review is to make sure that at least once a year all the professionals involved monitor and evaluate the continued effectiveness and relevance of your child's Additional Learning Needs.

What is an Individual Development Education Plan - ID(E)P?

An Individual Development (Education) Plan - ID(E)P is drawn up by the class teacher to help the parent and the school identify the child's needs and to target areas of particular difficulty. ID(E)Ps are usually linked to the main areas of language, literacy, mathematics and behaviour and social skills.

What is an assessment?

An assessment may be carried out with your child in order to identify their strengths and needs. Working in this way can help the school develop a plan of support and ensure that your child's needs are being addressed in the most suitable way. Assessments can be carried out by school staff or by local authority Education staff (eg. educational psychologists or advisory teachers).

Different types of assessments can target a range of areas (eg. reading, understanding, language skills, number skills and self-esteem). The results of these types of assessments are used to plan the way ahead for your child. The assessments may be reviewed from time to time to make sure that the plan of support continues to be suitable for your child.

I think my child has Additional Learning Needs (ALN). What can I do?

If you have concerns about your child's progress:

  • Have you spoken to your child's school about your concerns?
  • Do you know how the school works with children who may have Additional Learning Needs?
  • Do you know if your child is on one of the stages of the Code of Practice and, if so, which one?
  • Does your child have an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?
  • Who should you speak to in school?

If you think your child may have Additional Learning Needs that has not been identified by the school or early education setting, you should talk to your child's class teacher, to the Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) or to the headteacher. They will be able to tell you about the school's policy for Additional Learning Needs, the support and resources that the school can provide and help available from outside the school.

I'm really concerned about my child's progress. She is struggling with her written work and way behind the other readers in her class. What can I do?

Again, all children are different. And the first thing to do is arrange a meeting with the class teacher to discuss your concerns about your child.  The class teacher may contact the ALNCo (Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator) and to discuss and decide upon any Additional Learning Needs your child may have.

Teachers may seek the support of specialist professionals, for example advisory teachers or an educational and child psychologist. As part of this process your child may be assessed. This is to help decide on the best way to support them with their learning.

If your child is making slower progress than you expect, or the teachers are providing different support, help or activities in class, you should not assume that your child has special educational needs. Please talk to your class teacher, they are always keen to help.

I'm anxious that my child may be having difficulties at school. What can I do?

If you think your child may have difficulties you should talk to any of the following:

  • your child's class teacher or early years practitioner;
  • the school ALNCo (this is the person in the school or early years setting who has a particular responsibility for co-ordinating help for child with Additional Learning Needs);
  • the headteacher;
  • the independent parental supporter (IPS);
  • Health Visitor or doctor;
  • your social worker;
  • the educational psychology service;
  • the advisory teaching team (Learning and Inclusion support team);
  • Sensory Support team;
  • support from the Pupil Referral Service;
  • outreach from special school or specialist centre.

If you are not satisfied with a response, you should contact your local education authority to discuss your concerns.

How will my local school help my child?

  • by 'differentiating' tasks (ie. making tasks simpler or tailoring them to your child's ability);
  • offering different ways of recording information (eg. labelling pictures, diagrams or flow-charts);
  • by using multi-sensory activities;
  • by breaking down learning into small manageable steps;
  • by helping children to organise their written work by using writing frames;
  • by allowing extra time to complete tasks;
  • by keeping instructions short and clear;
  • by constantly praising and encouraging the child for achievements made.

Some children may work with a teaching assistant - before, during or at the end of a lesson. However, children should be encourage to work independently whenever possible.

What kind of information should be available to parents from their child's school?

Your local school should provide you with the following:

A prospectus

The prospectus normally contains useful information about the school (eg. which subjects are studied, the length of the school day, details of the school uniform, out of school activities, health matters etc).


Schools must have written policy statements on matters relating to the effective running of the school.


Most schools send regular newsletters to parents giving information about school life (eg. events and activities, school in-service closures (INSET), staff changes etc).

Pupil reports

Schools have to send a written report at least once a year to parents of children of compulsory school age. The report should explain progress, the pupil's strengths and weaknesses. The school report should not be used to raise issues with parents for the first time about their child's progress.

Your child's school records

As a parent, you have a right to access your child's educational record. This covers information such as the records of the pupil's academic achievements as well as correspondence from teachers, Local Authority employees and educational psychologists engaged by the school's governing body. It may also include information from the child and from you, as a parent. (If you require such information about your child, you should make the request in writing to the headteacher).

Other records that may be included

Pupils who have Additional Learning Needs and require additional support from the school may have an Individual Development (Education) Plan. This is sometimes called an action plan because it should describe:

  • what the child's special needs are;
  • how the school aims to meet those needs and the type of help that is to be provided;
  • targets for the child to work toward;
  • how the school will measure success and how often the plan will be reviewed.

It is considered good practice for parents to be consulted about the plan and for the plan to contain information about what parents can do at home to reinforce what is happening at school. Schools should invite parents to attend the review of the plan.

Home school agreements

All schools must have a Home-School Agreement which explains the aims and values of the school and spells out the responsibilities of pupils, parents and the school on such things as:

  • maintaining discipline and positive behaviour;
  • regular attendance;
  • homework;
  • maintaining a positive and happy learning environment;
  • the school's commitment to its pupils;
  • what is expected of parents and pupils.

Parents' evenings / consultations provide an opportunity to look at your child's work and to discuss progress with the teacher(s). However, you may be limited to a 5 or 10 minute session with the teacher and if you  have a lot to discuss you might find it helpful to:

  • write to the teacher before the meeting to let them know the issues you want to raise, or
  • ask for an alternative appointment to allow more time for discussion.

What is the SEN Code of Practice?

The SEN Code of Practice, issued in 1994 (and updated in 2000) provides guidance and practical advice to local authorities, schools, early education settings and others on how to carry out their duties under the Education Act 1996.

Not all children with Additional Learning Needs will be the same, so the Code of Practice states that there is a graduated response to meet their needs.

All local authorities, schools, early education settings and those who help them (which includes health and social services), have a duty to 'have regard to it'. This means that they cannot ignore the Code of Practice. In other words, although schools, local authorities and others do not have to do everything exactly as suggested in the code, they have to be able to justify why they feel it is better to do things differently.

The following fundamental principles underpin the guidance given in the code:

  • a child with Additional Learning Needs (ALN) should have his or her needs met;
  • the Additional Learning Needs (ALN) of children will normally be met in mainstream schools or early education settings;
  • the views of the child should be sought and taken into account;
  • parents have a vital role to play in support of their child's education;
  • children with Additional Learning Needs should be offered full access to a broad, balanced and relevant education, including an appropriate curriculum for the foundation stage and the national curriculum.


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