With some settings re-opening on 1 June (depending on the age of the child), the guidance includes recommended approaches that local authorities, educational settings and parents should follow for the return of children and young people with:
- EHC plans
- Complex needs but who do not have an EHC plan.
For full details of the guidance, please click here.
The key to any child with SEND returning to school is their risk assessment. This needs to be produced by the local authority and the education setting, and include the views of the child or young person, and their parents, social worker and potentially the local CCG.
The key factors in the updated guidance include:
- Risk assessments for children with EHC plans must be updated whatever year group they are in. The guidance also recommends that risk assessments should continue to be maintained for those with EHC plans who remain at home to ensure changes of circumstances and the support they are receiving can guide the local authority and education settings as to when a return is right for the individual.
- The updated risk assessments also need to take into account whether the parents and carers can sustain the levels of care and support needed for a long period of time. With many not being able to access care from extended family it is essential that local authorities should be mindful of access to respite and short break services.
- From 15 June there may be a phased return of specialist post-16 institutions informed by risk assessments, as well as certain year groups.
- A child may not be able to attend school if the support on their EHC plan can be better met “in a different way temporarily, eg. in the home or online or in a different way at school”
- Schools and local authorities will decide on an individual basis whether each child with SEND or those with an EHC plan should return to school
- Local authorities will also need to reinstate safe home to school transport arrangements.
- Children that are remaining at home to be educated there, because of the outcome of their risk assessment, need to be supported with remote learning. Their SENCo should take the lead in arranging this.
There is reference throughout this new guidance to the duty on local authorities under s42 Children and Families Act 2014 being downgraded to ‘reasonable endeavours’ (see our earlier news article here). A further notice will need to be issued to continue the downgraded status of the duty from duties to reasonable endeavours, as referred to in the guidance. The current notice expires on 31/05/2020. At the date of writing (27/05/2020) this Notice has not been issued, and a growing number of parents and campaigners are canvassing for the Secretary of State not to issue a further Notice, citing the perceived dangers that downgraded duties would lead to once children are back in the school setting.
To help limit the risk of the virus spreading, guidance has also been published on how to implement protective measures in education and childcare settings. (See the guidance here). The guidance acknowledges the particular problems posed by asking small children to socially distance themselves, and asks schools to attempt to minimise risks through encouraging regular handwashing, staggering break times and thinking about the layout of their classrooms. Education staff are specifically told there is no need to wear masks, and certainly small children (who potentially will not understand how to wear a mask properly) should not be asked to wear one, because incorrect use could actually encourage further spread of the virus.
We understand that these are extremely stressful and worrying times. If you are concerned about the current status of your child’s education, including in relation to transition, any upcoming reviews or their safe return to school, please contact a member of our education team on 01926 354704 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.