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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) in relation to children and young people with SEND during period of Coronavirus (Covid 19)

Since the law is subject to sudden change during these unpresedented times these answers will be updated as necessary, they are legally correct as of 15th September 2020.

Additional Questions and Answers may also be added if required.

Please also see answers to Frequently asked Question in relation to Health

Devon CCG Special educational needs and disability (SEND) coronavirus advice

How do I contact the SEND service now, how will it work if the team have to be at home?

Torbay SEN Team are working as usual, however, staff are now working remotely from home with some limited capacity. Telephone calls are still be answered, or if you leave a message on the answering machine they will be responded to promptly.

The Torbay SEND team can be contacted:

Please ensure all documents are sent electronically, if at all possible, and please let us know if this will pose a problem. Any post is being sent on, however there will be a delay in receiving this.

If the SEND Service staff are working from home, how will data protection be adhered to with the paperwork?

Existing required practice for working at home continues to apply. Staff have strict guidelines for working from home. Staff working from home have Council laptops with access to secure shared digital filing systems and correspondence via secure channels. Where contact is via mobile phone, calls will be made using work mobile phones. Please be assured that data protection remains a key priority for us.

Will Local Authority duties for children with EHCP’s continue the same as before?

From 1 May to 31 July 2020, section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (duty to secure special educational and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan) was modified by a notice from the Secretary of State for Education issued under the Coronavirus Act 2020. During this period, local authorities and health commissioning bodies were required to use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to discharge this duty. On 2 July the Secretary of State announced that, unless the evidence changes, he will not be issuing further national notices after 31 July to modify this duty, but will consider whether any such flexibilities may be required locally to respond to outbreaks.

From 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 Regulations also makes modifications to the allowable exemptions of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plans processes.

Where it is not reasonably practicable or impractical to conclude an action within the statutory timescale because of the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the local authority or other body to whom that deadline applies will instead have to complete the process either as soon as reasonably practicable or in line with any other timing requirement in the regulations being amended.

This additional allowable exception to timescales applies to processes such as:

  • the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments - 6 weeks for a decision whether to make an EHC needs assessment 
  • decisions whether to issue plans - 16 weeks from the request for assessment
  • the preparation and issue of plans - 20 weeks from the request for assessment

Please see DfE guidance - Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for more information

Do all children including those with EHC Plans need to attend school from September 2020?

From the beginning of the autumn term (Setember 2020), all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school full-time. Schools must do everything possible to minimise contacts and mixing,  through keeping groups separate (in ‘bubbles’) and through maintaining distance between individuals, while delivering a broad and balanced curriculum. However, every school will also need to plan for the possibility of a local lockdown and how they will ensure continuity of education.

School and college attendance will again be mandatory from the beginning of the new academic year. For parents and carers of children of compulsory school age, this means that the legal duty on you as a parent to send your child to school regularly will apply.

All children must attend school unless they are self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms, or are unable to attend school because they are complying with clinical and/or public health advice.  School will need evidence of this.  The government have decided that parents will once again be fined for non-attendance.

You may find it useful to visit:

From 1st  June 2020, children who had an education health and care (EHC) plan, were expected to attendand, where it was determined, following a risk assessment, that their needs could be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment. However, Children and young people who were considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding were expected to continue to shield and not be expected to attend. Shielding rules ceased on Monday 1 August.

Schools have carried out a risk assessment ahead of re-opening, they have put in place a comprehensive program of measures to limit the risk to staff and children.

The government has asked schools and colleges to ensure:

  • They have a procedure in place for managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in line with public health guidance.
  • Everyone at the school or college cleans their hands more often than usual, including when they arrive at school or college, when they return from breaks and before and after eating.
  • They promote good respiratory hygiene, by promoting catch it, bin it, kill it approach
  • They have an enhanced cleaning regime
  • They minimise contact and maintain distance as far as possible. Schools and colleges will decide how best to do this, as it will be different for each setting, but in broad terms, it will involve asking children to stay within specified separate groups (or bubbles), and through maintaining distance between individuals.

The guidance to schools recognises that younger children may not be able to maintain social distancing so it is likely that for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children it will be on distancing.  

All education settings have a statutory duty under equalities legislation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children. Many children and young people will have found lockdown exceptionally difficult socially and emotionally. Settings should consider any challenging behaviours or social or emotional challenges arising as a response to the lockdown and offer additional support and phased returns where needed.

Schools may have to work together to ensure children are well looked after and put in place solutions such as changes to drop off and collection times, individual phased reintergration timetables, etc.. However, settings should not put in place reduced timetables for all.

Torbay Council is working closely with all education settings and health colleagues to ensure that the right staff are in the right settings.

Your child’s school or college will be able to give your more information about the specific measure and processes they have put in place and any more individualised support they are putting into place for specific pupils with EHC plans.

Link to DfE Guidance - What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term

How will schools be limiting the risk of infection / will pupils have to wear face masks?

Pupils will not be required to wear face covering in school, however, they may be required to wear face coverings if using public transport to and from school, and in cases of COVID "hot spot areas" secondary aged pupils may be required to wear face coverings in communal areas outside of the classrooms, such as hallways.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends that children over 12 should wear masks in conditions where social distancing is not possible. In line with this, the government has recently revised its guidance on face coverings in secondary schools and further education colleges.

Where schools are in areas under local lockdown, pupils in year seven and above should wear face coverings in communal areas and when moving around the school (for example in corridors). In areas which are not under lockdown, individual schools can decide for themselves if pupils and staff should wear face coverings around the school.

The government advises that face coverings are not needed in the classroom, as they could make teaching and learning more difficult. Other protective measures, such as distancing and hand hygiene, should help to lower the risk of transmission in the classroom.

Some individuals do not have to wear face coverings. These include:

  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a disability or illness.
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a mask without severe distress.
  • People who are speaking to or helping someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

These exemptions also apply in schools and colleges.

Schools have carried out a risk assessment ahead of re-opening, they have put in place a comprehensive program of measures to limit the risk to staff and children.

The government has asked schools and colleges to ensure:

  • They have a procedure in place for managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in line with public health guidance.
  • Everyone at the school or college cleans their hands more often than usual, including when they arrive at school or college, when they return from breaks and before and after eating.
  • They promote good respiratory hygiene, by promoting catch it, bin it, kill it approach
  • They have an enhanced cleaning regime
  • They minimise contact and maintain distance as far as possible. Schools and colleges will decide how best to do this, as it will be different for each setting, but in broad terms, it will involve asking children to stay within specified separate groups (or bubbles), and through maintaining distance between individuals.

Schools are expected to encourage social distancing where possible.

For example, many schools can rearrange classrooms to have forward facing desks with space between them, or markings on the floor to encourage one way systems and show children where to line up. Teachers are encouraged to maintain a two metre distance from each other and from pupils, for example, by teaching at the front of the class. Where this isn't possible teachers should avoid face to face contact spend as little time as possible within one metre of anyone.

It will be up to schools to decide how best to put in place these arrangements depending on the layout of the building, their size and class groupings.

The guidance to schools recognises that younger children may not be able to maintain social distancing so it is likely that for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children it will be on distancing. 

Testing is already available for all school staff, children and their household members.

To access testing parents should use the 111 online coronavirus service.

Prompt testing will enable your child to get back into childcare or education, and you to get back to work, if the test proves to be negative.

In the event of a child or member of staff testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), the relevant group of people within the school with whom the child has mixed closely (their cohort), should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 10 school days. As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the cohort or in the wider setting, Public Health England’s local Health Protection teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take.

Government guidance states, “Wearing a face covering or face mask in schools or other education settings is not recommended”

Staff will only wear PPE when;

  • A child whose care routinely already involves the use of PPE due to their intimate care needs.
  • A child becomes unwell with symptoms of coronavirus while in their setting and personal care until they can return home. A face mask should be worn by the supervising adult if a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained. If contact with the child or young person is necessary, then gloves, an apron and a face mask should be worn by the supervising adult. If a risk assessment determines that there is a risk of splashing to the eyes, for example from coughing, spitting, or vomiting, then eye protection should also be worn.  

If you have any concerns please speak to your school or college.  

Will School transport be running for pupils with EHC plans who are entitled to transport?

Transport arrangements for children with an EHC Plan should carry on as they are, following the same timetable wherever possible. If this isn’t going to happen for your child, then their school or the transport provider will get in touch with you.  It will help schools to have advice from parents regarding their child’s/young person’s transport requirements by noon each day for the next day if this is likely to change.

Where your child uses dedicated school or college transport (that is transport that does not cater for the general public), the guidance for public transport will not apply. Face coverings will not generally be required but may be required in some circumstances.

What advice is there for parents to support their children’s education?

During restrictions on school attendance most schools created resources and work for children to do at home or arranged for online learning. 

The resources below where orininally published to advice parents on supporting thier children's education whilst they were not allowed to go to school. We have left these links on this webpage to assist parents who want to continue supporting thier children's education during the Summer holidays and beyond

There are also lots of links parents might find useful on the Torbay Local Offer Elective Home Education webpage.

Parentzone - provides free online resource hub to help families during the COVID-19 lockdown, with lot of articles, help and inspiration to keep younger children and teenagers entertained. From virtual museum tours, including the Science, Natural History and British Museums, to online dance performances and workshops.

BBC Bitesize - provides Daily lessons  for homeschooling in Maths and English for every year group, as well as regular lessons in Science, History, Geography and more.

There is also support available to keep your child safe online. Below are some useful links to help parents and carers:

Parent Access from Youth Genesis provides:

  • A safe space for parents/guardians to talk to someone and to be listened to.
  • A safe space to access tools to support your child with any issues they may be experiencing.
  • A safe space to be signposted to other organisations that can offer your child support during this time.

My child is very anxious about what is happening with the virus, what can I do?

There are lots of useful links for explaining the current situation to children of different ages towards the bottom of our Covid 19 resources for Schools, Parent and Carers in relation to children and young people who have SEND webpage.

You may also find the following resources useful:

Can requests for EHC needs assessments still be made?

We are asking parents, professionals and settings to carefully consider about making requests for statutory assessment. Other than in the most exceptional cases, we suggest that it is sensible to delay these until the end of the summer term where possible.

We are asking this because when we decide that we need to complete a statutory assessment, we usually ask a range of people (like teachers, educational psychologists, and other professionals) for advice. This will be more difficult because:

  • health and care staff may be asked to work in front line services instead of their usual role
  • professionals may not be available – they may be sick, self-isolating or caring for children
  • Educational Psychologists will not be able to see and assess children and young people in school/college in the usual way

Any assessment agreed to be carried out from now will be unlikely to be completed within 20 weeks due to difficulties in collecting the required advice.

From 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) the Regulations which provide most of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plans processes will also be modified.

Where it is not reasonably practicable or impractical to conclude an action within the statutory timescale because of the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the local authority or other body to whom that deadline applies will instead have to complete the process either as soon as reasonably practicable or in line with any other timing requirement in the regulations being amended.

This additional allowable exception to timescales applies to processes such as:

  • the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments - 6 weeks for a decision whether to make an EHC needs assessment 
  • decisions whether to issue plans - 16 weeks from the request for assessment
  • the preparation and issue of plans - 20 weeks from the request for assessment

Please see DfE guidance - Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19)  for more information

Torbay SEN Team will keep working, doing our best to make the right decisions for children and young people. We will try hard to keep parents updated where there are any problems.

Will new EHC plans still be issued following an EHC needs assessment?

It will be harder for us to consult with schools/colleges to name in an EHC Plan because of school/college closures and less teachers being available. Where we have completed an assessment and we are due to issue a final EHC Plan, we will most likely name the current school/college for now. This will mean that the child or young person will still be supported by that school/college during the COVID-19 crisis.

From 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) the Regulations which provide most of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plans processes will also be modified.

Where it is not reasonably practicable or impractical to conclude an action within the statutory timescale because of the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the local authority or other body to whom that deadline applies will instead have to complete the process either as soon as reasonably practicable or in line with any other timing requirement in the regulations being amended.

This additional allowable exception to timescales applies to processes such as:

  • the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments - 6 weeks for a decision whether to make an EHC needs assessment 
  • decisions whether to issue plans - 16 weeks from the request for assessment
  • the preparation and issue of plans - 20 weeks from the request for assessment

Please see DfE guidance - Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) for more information

Torbay SEN Team will work together with schools/colleges to make sure that children, young people and their families feel safe and supported.