Listening to Learners With Additional Learning Needs

In Wales, the children and young people’s participation agenda has developed in a distinct and unique way.
These developments are set within the framework of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child now formally adopted as the basis of all its work for children and young people (Rights to Action, 2004).

Read the full document here.

Articles 12 and 13 state that children who are capable of forming their own views have a right to express their views in any matters affecting them.  The views of the child should be given due weight according to the age, maturity and capability of the child.  They also have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.
The implications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are that:

(from Listening to Learners, 2007)
The Welsh Assembly Government has shown its commitment to developing the participation of children and young people in some of its policy documents, most notably the Framework for Partnership (2002) and Extending Entitlement (2002).
The Welsh Assembly has supported the development of children and young people’s participation by a number of means including:

The importance of listening to learners as part of the school self-evaluation process is also emphasised in the Estyn Common Inspection Framework and Estyn offers inspection teams guidance on how to seek the views of learners during an inspection (Estyn, 2004).

Ascertaining the child or young person’s views may not always be easy.  Very young children and those with severe communication difficulties for example may present a significant challenge.  Children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with a history of disengagement and a sense of learnt helplessness may be reluctant or suspicious of giving their views. The SEN Code of Practice for Wales  also notes there is a “fine balance between giving a child a voice and encouraging them to make informed decisions, and overburdening them with decision making procedures where they have insufficient experience and knowledge to make appropriate judgements without additional support” *.

However, these difficulties should not, in principle, be used to avoid seeking children’s and young people’s views.  Where consultation is carried out sensitively and effectively children and young people come away

The aim of this guidance is to point the reader in the direction of the wide range of resources available to education, health and other professional’s to help them seek and take account of the child’s or young person’s views and encourage their participation.

* The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations, Vol. 6. Children with Disabilities (1991), HMSO.