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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 1st May 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?

A notice from the Secretary of State for Education issued under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 (duty to secure special educational provision and health care provision in accordance with EHC plan) has been issued. The duty on local authorities or health commissioning bodies to secure or arrange the provision is temporarily modified to a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.

This means that local authorities and health bodies must consider for each child and young person with an EHC plan what they can reasonably provide in the circumstances during the notice period. For some individuals, this will mean that the provision specified in their plan can continue to be delivered; but for others (because of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on local authorities or health commissioning bodies) the provision may need temporarily to be different to that which is set out in their EHC plan.

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) - Last updated 29 May 2020 for more information

Can children at SEN support still attend school?

Schools are now closed to the majority of children. The only children who can still go to school are children of keyworker staff and vulnerable children. Children with needs at SEN support level can only attend school if they are also considered to be vulnerable children.

Vulnerable children only includes:

  • those supported by social care
  • those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans
  • those on child protection plans
  • children in care
  • disabled children who have an EHC plan and/or are supported by social care
  • those with Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans
  • some other children and young people recognised as vulnerable by the Local Authority and school

Do all children with EHC Plans need to continue to attend school?

Children with an EHC plan do not need to attend school if they can safely remain at home. The Department for Education has requested all schools or colleges, in consultation with the local authority (LA) and parents, to risk-assess and decide whether each child with an EHC Plan needs to continue to be offered a school or college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.  Many children and young people with EHC Plans can safely remain at home. If it is possible for children to be at home, they should be. Decisions for children with underlying health conditions must be made on an individual basis with advice from an appropriate health professional where required. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. It is, however, important that as many children as possible remain at home during this time in order to help reduce transmission rates.

Schools, colleges and all childcare providers are being asked by the Government to continue to provide care for a limited number of children- children who are vulnerable, those with EHC Plan’s, children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and who cannot be cared for safely at home. Schools may have to work together to ensure children are well looked after and put in place solutions such as a shorter day or a reduced timetable. This might mean your child isn’t in their usual school or with their usual teacher.

Local authorities and schools do not need to complete their usual day-to-day attendance processes to follow up non-attendance. Schools should be ensuring they have a process in place to check on the welfare of any child who does not attend on any day. A record of attendance is being requested from schools every day. This will be submitted directly to the Department of Education through a new daily web form.

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

Department for Education link to Closure of educational settings: information for parents and carers

If children with an EHC Plan continue to attend school will transport still be running for those 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.

During the Easter Holidays - Will schools continue to stay open for vulnerable children, including children with an EHC plan?

The government has said “Where possible, we would encourage settings to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.” Local schools and colleges have worked together to meet this expectation.

What advice is there for parents to support their children’s education whilst they are not allowed to go to school?

Most schools will create resources and work for children to do at home or arrange for online learning. This may be much harder for some children with learning difficulties or additional needs, and of course it’s likely to be difficult to manage if you have to work from home as well as look after your children.

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

THe DfE has released Coronavirus (COVID 19): list of online education resources for home education - a list of online educational resources to help children to learn at home.

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 Coronavirus - resources for managing anxiety and improving wellbeing 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) - Last updated 29 May 2020 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) - Last updated 29 May 2020 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.

When will schools re-open?

From now until 1 June, schools will continue to be open for priority groups like children of keyworkers and vulnerable children where appropriate.

There are currently no firm dates for schools to fully reopen, and plans will be kept under review as the Covid-19 risk continues to be monitored. The government has included its plan for a gradual reopening of schools in England in its Covid-19 recovery strategy - a 'road map' of how the UK will gradually come out of lockdown.

The governments current aim is that by 1 June at the earliest, and only if the rate of infection has decreased enough:

  • Mainstream primary schools may start to open for children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 only.
  • Mainstream secondary schools and colleges may provide some face to face support for students in year 10 and year 12.
  • Childcare providers can care for children again.

Later in June and again, only if the Covid risk continues to decrease:

  • Primary schools may re-open for children in year groups 2, 3 4 and 5.
  • Early years settings like nurseries may reopen.

Special schools, specialist colleges and hospital schools will have a phased return based on risk assessments of individual pupils.

Alternative provision settings such as Pupil Referral Units should prioritise the same year groups as mainstream schools.

There are no current plans to re-open secondary schools for the majority of pupils until September, however, secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges are being asked to provide some face-to-face support for young people in year 10 and year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.