UK (Wales) background information


How the official decision of special educational needs (SEN) in the country relates to the agreed EASIE operational definition

Operational definition

An official decision leads to a child/learner being recognised as eligible for additional educational support to meet their learning needs.

Criteria for an official decision of SEN

  • There has been an educational assessment procedure involving a multi-disciplinary team

  • The multi-disciplinary team includes members from within and external to the child’s/learner’s (pre)school

  • There is a legal document which describes the support the child/learner is eligible to receive and which is used as the basis for planning

  • The official decision is subject to a formal, regular review process

Educational assessment procedure in the country

The individual school (usually the SEN Co-ordinator) will assess the child’s/learner’s strengths and weaknesses and plan what support is required. Support will consist of one of the following:

  • School Action (SA): interventions that are additional to or different from those provided as part of the school’s usual differentiated curriculum offer and strategies.
  • School Action Plus (SA+): if SA is not sufficient, external support services – such as an educational psychologist – will usually see the child/learner to further inform planning and assessment. The external specialist may act in an advisory capacity, provide additional specialist assessment or be involved in teaching the child/learner directly.
  • Statement: a school, local authority or parent may request that a statutory assessment be undertaken if a child/learner is still not progressing satisfactorily. The assessment would involve the parents’ and the child’s/learner’s views, copies of the child’s/learner’s individual progress reports, and advice from professionals, e.g. health and social services if required.

How the multi-disciplinary team is comprised in the country

  • Education: there are 22 local authorities in Wales, each one responsible for identifying, assessing and providing for children/learners within their individual area.
  • Health: there are seven local health boards in Wales planning, securing and delivering healthcare services in their areas.
  • Social services: typically, this is the responsibility of the local authorities.
  • Third sector: sometimes other agencies may be involved, such as with a looked-after child, parent partnership agencies, non-maintained educational settings, Careers Wales.

The legal document used in the country to outline the support that the child/learner is eligible to receive

The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice for Wales guidance document provides practical advice to local authorities, maintained schools and others on carrying out their statutory duties to identify, assess and make provision for children’s/learners’ SEN.

How the document is used as the basis for planning in the country

Local authorities and those who work with them, such as social services and health, must fulfil their statutory duties towards children/learners with SEN. However, it is up to them to decide how to do so in accordance with the Code of Practice.

The Education Act 1993 placed a duty on the Secretary of State for Education to issue a Code of Practice and established the power to revise it from time to time. Since then, the rights and duties contained in the 1993 Act have been consolidated into Part IV of the 1996 Education Act. This Code assists schools and local authorities in obtaining the best value from the resources and expertise they invest in helping children/learners with SEN.

The formal, regular review process in the country

Schools should record a child’s/learner’s progress within an Individual Education Plan (IEP). IEPs should ideally be reviewed each term or at least twice a year.

The Welsh Government’s Special Educational Needs Code of Practice guidance document was revised in 2004 in light of new legislation.


Proxy indicator for the 80% benchmark used for the country’s data collection

The EASIE work uses an 80% benchmark of inclusive education. This is defined as:

An inclusive setting refers to education where the child/learner with SEN follows education in mainstream classes alongside their mainstream peers for most – 80% or more – of the school week.

Proxy indicator used

Placement in a mainstream class implies over 80% or more.

Details on what the country proxy is

Wales does not have a proxy indicator. Nonetheless, its policy position is that children/learners should be educated in mainstream settings wherever possible, unless their needs indicate that specialist provision is required.

Why this proxy was used

The focus is on inclusive education and the majority of children/learners with SEN can be well educated within a mainstream school with appropriate support in place. Only when a child/learner has a statement and displays significant barriers to learning in a mainstream setting, will a special school be considered.

Difficulties in using the proxy

No difficulties.

Specific country issues in applying the proxy indicator

No issues.


Detailed description of what ‘out of formal education’ means within the country

The 2011 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) defines ‘formal education’ as follows:

[…] education that is institutionalised, intentional and planned through public organizations and recognised private bodies and, – in their totality – constitute the formal education system of a country. Formal education programmes are thus recognised as such by the relevant national education or equivalent authorities, e.g. any other institution in cooperation with the national or sub-national educational authorities. Formal education consists mostly of initial education […]Vocational education, special needs education and some parts of adult education are often recognised as being part of the formal education system. Qualifications from formal education are by definition recognised and, therefore, are within the scope of ISCED. Institutionalised education occurs when an organization provides structured educational arrangements, such as student-teacher relationships and/or interactions, that are specially designed for education and learning

(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2011, International Standard Classification of Education ISCED 2011, p. 11).

Do the country definitions of formal, non-formal and informal education differ from the ISCED definitions?

No, Wales uses the same definitions as ISCED.

How specific cases – such as home-educated children/learners – are considered

Most children in Wales are educated in school, but some parents/carers choose to educate their children at home. Guidance is in place for developing positive relationships and mutual respect between local authorities and the home-educating community and for providing advice and support. It also aims to clarify the balance between the rights of parents/carers to home-educate, the rights of children to receive a suitable education and the responsibilities of local authorities.

Children/learners who are considered out of formal education (meaning those not in formal education as defined by ISCED)

Reasons why children/learners are educated outside of formal education include the following:

  • Ideological or philosophical beliefs
  • Health
  • Cultural
  • Religious
  • Bullying
  • Special educational provision
  • Language choice
  • Length of school journey
  • Flexibility and tailoring of approach
  • Awaiting a place in school of their choice.

How the population of children/learners who are out of formal education is defined

These children/learners are defined as being in ‘Elective Home Education’, with the majority being educated at home. A minority of these children/learners may be flexi-schooled, where the child/learner attends school on a part-time basis and is home-schooled for the remainder of the time. However, this is usually a short-term measure to address a particular issue of concern.

The definition of children and young people who are not in any sort of education is ‘young people not in education, employment or training’.


Provision of data on private sector education

The data collection covers all sectors of education, including numbers for the child/learner population in the private sector.

Private sector education in the country

These are independent schools and colleges which are not maintained by the State but charge fees.

Child/learner population counted for each relevant question

Children/learners in maintained educational settings only.

Specific issues with providing data on private sector education and how these have been overcome in the data collection

No data/information has been provided on the private sector, as it is not collected.


ISCED level age ranges

The following are the most common (pre)school entrance ages and (pre)school leaving ages for the different ISCED levels:

Age range in the country at ISCED level 02 (pre-primary): 2 to 4

Age range in the country at ISCED level 1: 5 to 10

Age range in the country at ISCED level 2: 11 to 15

Age range in the country at ISCED level 3: 16 to 18


2012/2013 and 2014/2015 data background information

This country updated its background information for the 2016/2017 dataset. A PDF of the background information for the 2012/2013 and 2014/2015 datasets is available.

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