Education Legislation and Guidance

Special Educational Needs/Additional Educational Needs in Wales


If you’re looking for legislation to do with education in Wales look no further than the Wales Law website here.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t include guidance so I’ve collected the key bits you’re likely to need below:

First up, we have the Special Educational Code of Practice for Wales (the CoP): this is a very, very important document which can be considered as a kind of ‘bible’. Issued in 2001, it will remain in force until such time as it’s replaced by a new code of practice. The CoP sets out what the Welsh Government expects organisations such as local authority education services, schools, social services, health authorities and Career Wales should and, indeed in many cases, must do. Basically, the relevant organisations must have what is called ‘due regard’ to the Welsh Government expectations of them. If they don’t they may have to explain why to arbitrators such as the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales or the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales. In many cases local authority officers and school staff, for instance, will be using the CoP and not primary or secondary legislation to guide their actions and decisions.


You may not know it but the CoP has a piece of sister guidance called the Best Practice in Meeting the Needs of Children with Special Educational Needs. This guidance goes into more detail in a number of areas set out in the CoP and is potentially very useful. But in my experience, although it is referenced in different pieces of Welsh Government guidance documentation, I have never heard it referred to by any practitioner in the educational system. Possibly this is due to the way that it was distributed when it was first issued. The ring binder that was designed to hold the guidance was distributed in the first instance empty except for section dividers detailing the scheduled distribution dates of the individual sections: the finished sections were subsequently sent out at intervals according to the declared timetable. However, it may be that by arriving in dribs and drabs not all of sections ended up in the ring binders as intended meaning that in many settings the complete document was never assembled. Irrespective of the apparent lack of awareness of the ‘Best Practice’ guidance compared with the CoP  it is still, as stated above,  a potentially useful document which will remain in force until it is withdrawn. For those of you reading this in England, the ‘Best Practice’ guidance is the Welsh equivalent of the ‘SEN Toolkit’ prior to the Children and Families Act 2014.


Another very important piece of guidance is called Inclusion and Pupil Support (sometimes referred to as ‘Pebbles’ because of the photo on the front cover – come to think of it, why did they chose an image of pebbles? This is a substantial piece of guidance and sets out the Welsh Government’s vision and expectations regarding inclusion in schools. Again, you may not hear it referred to by professionals that often but it contains an awful lot of potentially useful information. For instance, paragraph 1.8 on page 3 of Section 5 is the only source that I’m aware of which quantifies what the Welsh Government means by full-time education. It is intended to provide a framework to assist local authorities and schools develop their approaches to planning, supporting and meeting the needs of ALL learners. It is made up of 6 sections:

  • Inclusive education;
  • Supporting pupils with additional learning needs;
  • A whole-school approach to behaviour and attendance;
  • Attendance;
  • Provision of education outside the school setting;
  • Elective home education.

Part 3 deals with, amongst other things, the development of school behaviour policy including the need for governing bodies to consult with the whole school community at a very early stage in the process. Also feeding into this area is  Safe and Effective Intervention – Use of Reasonable Force and Searching for Weapons. Interestingly, to me at least, it seems that in Wales the power of schools to search for items is restricted to weapons and doesn’t extend to drugs as it does in England. This guidance also supplements Part 3  Inclusion and Pupil Support as it provides advice on using reasonable force with pupils with challenging behaviour, including severe challenging behaviour, in both special and mainstream schools.

Although the application of Inclusion and Pupil Support (see above) should, in a perfect world, mean there will be no exclusions the reality is a little different and when it comes to fixed-term or permanent exclusions you will need Exclusions from Schools and Pupil Referral Units.

There are two useful documents covering medical needs: Access to Education and Support for Children and Young People with Medical Needs deals with general aspects, whilst Guidance on the Use of Emergency Salbutamol Inhalers in Schools in Wales does exactly what it says on the cover and deals specifically in those cases when schools use their discretionary power to hold emergency salbutamol inhalers should an emergency arise for a pupil with asthma.

All things to do with schools admissions can be found in two codes, School Admissions and School Admissions Appeals, both of which can be accessed here complete with some FAQs.

School transport is often throws up tricky issues and your first port of call for information should be the Learner Travel Statutory Provision and Operational Guidance.




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