Given the fact that Wales has a distinctive culture, its own language and National Assembly, it would seem only right for there to be a Welsh executive of the National Association of Special Educational Needs. NASEN members in Wales need to be represented by an executive committee that fully understands their concerns in relation to policy and practice in their principality and acknowledges the Welsh language.
There are exciting developments in SEN at the moment; for example, the proposals for a revised and more user-friendly Code of Practice on the identification and assessment of pupils with SEN, and the consultation document for the SEN and Disability Rights in Education Bill. Both will have far reach-ing consequences for special educational provision in Wales.
One issue that is pertinent to Wales is related to the lack of specialist teachers for pupils who speak Welsh as their first language and attend Welsh medium schools. Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Newport admit having particular difficulties in giving appropriate help to Welsh-speaking pupils with speech and language difficulties and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). As well as the shortage of specialist Welsh-speaking teachers, there are also few books and resources for pupils with SEN. Clearly, this is an issue that the Welsh executive of NASEN (NASEN Cymru) will wish to address. It will also be keen to see the research undertaken by the Welsh Language Board, which will allow it to see the extent of the problem.
As is in other parts of the United Kingdom, Welsh authorities are also aware of the training needs of teachers in relation to pupils with dyslexia, emotional and behavioural difficulties (EBD) and ASD. The Curriculum and Assessment Authority in Wales has always been supportive of SEN and, as a result, bilingual guidance on the national curriculum for pupils with EBD and for pupils with ASD will be circulated to all schools in Wales in the autumn term. Members of NASEN have played an active role in both these publcations and the Welsh executive will continue to foster positive links with the authority.
The Welsh executive is representative of all the three branches in Wales and has worked as a team to organise the translation of some of the NASEN policy documents into Welsh. NASEN Cymru hopes to promote and maintain links with ACCAC, Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales (Estyn), the voluntary sector in Wales and members of the Welsh Assembly. It would like to see as many teachers, parents and professionals as possible contributing to Welsh SEN policy via the branches and at conferences.
It is important that we all work together to raise awareness of SEN issues in Wales and have a proactive role in policy. A Welsh executive of NASEN is an important development in the country and parents, carers and professionals alike need to play a part in its work. NASEN has a membership of 10,000 and the figure is increasing, but more members are always welcome to make our voice even stronger. NASEN branches in Wales want to know Welsh teachers' views on SEN services and work in collaboration in order to promote equality of educational opportunity for all.
An official launch of the first Welsh executive of NASEN took place on May 9 in the Assembly Buildings in Cardiff. Rosemary Butler, assembly member for education, said she hoped NASEN Cymru would participate fully in any consultation relating to SEN issues. She stressed the importance of early identification of pupils with SEN and the need to work in partnership with parents.
The national launch of NASEN Cymru took place in Aberysytwyth on June 24. The conference, entitled The Future of SEN in Wales, featured speakers from Estyn, SNAP and Children in Wales. It addressed issues such as the need for early identification, parental support, career structure for LSAs and the differential in funding between England and Wales.
Maggie Bowen is president of the Welsh executive of NASEN, pp13, North East Wales Institute of HE, Plas Coch, Wrexham, LL128YU, tel: 01978 290666E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org