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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 June 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 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) - Last updated 06 July 2020 for more information

Can children at SEN support still attend school?

Up until 1st June 2020, Schools were closed to the majority of children. The only children who could still go to school were children of keyworker staff and vulnerable children. Children with needs at SEN support level could only attend school if they were 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

From 1st June schools started re-opening for other children in priority groups. Children with needs at SEN support level may now attend if they are in the priority groups identified in the opening schools guidance.

Link to DfE guidance on What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Do all children with EHC Plans need to attend school?

From 1st  June 2020, children who have an education health and care (EHC) plan, are expected to attendand, where it is determined, following a risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment. However, Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend.

Schools and colleges continue to be best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate their pupils during this period. This will include:

  • consideration of pupils’ mental health and wellbeing
  • assessment of where pupils are in their learning in order to make any necessary adjustments to their curriculum over the coming weeks
  • prioritisation of high needs groups and support for those in transition years

Schools and colleges should use their best endeavours to support pupils attending as well as those remaining at home, making use of the available remote education support.

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 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.

Link to DfE Opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June: guidance 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.

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 06 July 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 06 July 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 other children go back to school?

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:

Schools will continue to offer places to children:

  • who are vulnerable
  • of critical workers

From the week commencing 1 June, they are asking:

  • early years providers to welcome back children of all ages
  • primary schools in England to welcome back children in key transition years – nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6

From 15 June, secondary schools, sixth form and colleges can offer some face-to-face support for:

  • pupils in year 10 and year 12
  • 16 to 19 learners in the first year of a 2-year study programme

This approach aims to limit numbers within schools and further education settings while ensuring that the children and young people who can benefit from attending most are able to do so.

Since 15 June, primary schools have also had flexibility to bring back other pupils where they have space to do so.

From the beginning of the autumn term, 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.

Schools and other settings should communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail.

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.

Link to DfE guidance on What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak