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SEND During Temporary Closure
On the 1st May, the Department for Education made temporary changes to the duty on Local Authorities and commissioning health bodies for children and young people with an Educational Health Care Plan and on the EHC needs assessment process. These changes placed an emphasis on a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the provision in place for your child during the Covid-19 period.
For some children and young people, this has meant that the provision specified in their plan could continue to be delivered. For others, this may have resulted in a child or young person’s provision being different to that which is set out in their EHC plan, for some, or all, of the time that the notice was in place.
The Milton Keynes Local Authority SEND Team has worked with settings and schools to identify the provision in place for your child during this time, this has also included the use of a risk assessment which has sought to identify the measures in place to support your child’s return to school where agreeable with parents/carers and where it was safe to do so.
We know that settings and schools have been in regular contact with you and that you will already be aware of the provision in place to support your child. Should you wish to have a copy of the information about your child’s provision, please complete the EHCP reasonable endeavours offer form.
On the 2nd July, the DfE confirmed that there are no plans to issue further notices and that all children and young people, including those with EHC plans, will return to schools and settings from September. This means that the full range of provision specified in EHC plans will resume from the start of the autumn term.
The DfE have also confirmed that if, and only if, there is a potential need to re-introduce flexibility this will only be considered at a local level and in response to a local covid-19 outbreak
COVID-19, School Closures and SEND Provision
What are the entitlements of children and young people with SEN when schools are closed due to Coronavirus?
All schools have been ordered to effectively close, retaining a skeleton staff to provide education for the children of key workers, and ‘vulnerable children.’
Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with an Education Health Care Plan (EHC plan). The majority of children with SEN, who receive SEN Support at school but do not have an EHC plan, would be expected to stay home unless they have a social worker or a parent/carer who is a key worker.
Do I have to send my child to school?
Despite schools staying open for some children, the guidance is quite clear:
‘If it is at all possible for children to
be at home, then they should be.’
If my child has an EHC plan, doesn’t the local authority have a legal duty to deliver provision?
From a legal perspective this remains the case. However, given the likely significant disruption to staffing, it may be very difficult for schools or local authorities to deliver precisely the provision in the EHC plan, particularly over the next few weeks.
The Government have just passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 which gives temporary emergency powers to the Government to issue a notice (a month at a time) that would modify the legal requirements on Local Authorities in relation to Education, Health and Care Plans. If this notice is issued it would be in relation to two key areas:
The absolute duty to make the provision in an EHC plan (section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014) is to be temporarily amended to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty. This means that during the specified period the LA needs to do whatever it reasonably can to put provision in place, but if they cannot do so they would not necessarily be breaching the law.
Disapplying the duty to undertake annual reviews of EHC plans.
Again, if there could be a risk to the child or young person’s health, wellbeing or safety if they do not receive a particular provision or intervention, raise this with your school and Local Authority without delay.
What is the advice from the Secretary of State for Children?
On 24th March 2020, the Secretary of State for Children, Vicky Ford, issued an open letter to children and young people with SEN), their parents/carers and families, and all others who support them.
In this letter, the Minister makes clear that:
‘nurseries, schools, special schools, colleges and other training providers should undertake a risk assessment to establish the individual needs of each child or young person with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This assessment should incorporate the views of the child or young person and their parents. This will inform the decision about whether they should continue in school or college, or whether their needs can be met at home safely.
If needs are best met at schools or colleges, we will support their school or college to meet their needs, wherever possible. For those on SEN support, schools, colleges and local authorities have discretion to use the same risk judgement to decide whether home or school is the safest setting for these children. It is, however, important that as many children as possible remain at home during this time in order to help reduce transmission rates.’
My child was due to have an annual review. What will happen now?
Under the Coronavirus Act, the requirement to carry out annual reviews may be temporarily dis-applied where this is considered to be ‘appropriate and proportionate.’ However, currently schools will continue to hold annual reviews if at all possible.
Long Meadow is seeking clarity from Milton Keynes regarding Annual Reviews and will provide further information after the Easter break.
If you feel there is an urgent need to amend the provision or placement in the child or young person’s EHC plan, speak to the school and the Local Authority about this to see what review mechanisms could be put in place.
My child is still attending school. How will my child’s learning be supported at school?
It is important to note the school will not be providing a full curriculum, they will be providing care for the children and incorporating education provision and a range of activities, but this will NOT be fully in line with their EHC provision.
How can I support my child’s learning at home?
If a child has an identified SEN (EHCP or SEN Support), the class teacher will take account of their needs when planning for and providing work to be completed at home. This may include:
- suggesting different ways in which children can present their work;
- giving more detailed instructions;
- providing parents with suggestions to make tasks more practical in nature;
How can I help my child cope with the changes?
We understand that this is a significant change for many families. Please give yourself time to adjust to a new routine and above all, do not place too much pressure on yourself or your child to complete schoolwork. Maintaining positive mental health and emotional wellbeing is very important. The mental health charity MIND have provided some initial information which we are happy to share.
Who can I contact re SEND?
We realise that these are difficult times for everyone. If you have any concerns or queries please contact: