Coronavirus & education
Coronavirus - support with education for children and young people with SEND
Coronavirus has meant a series of changes around education. These have led to a lot of concerns and questions for families with children and young people with SEND about what is happening with their child’s education during coronavirus. The situation continues to change and we will keep updating this section.
Attending school or not
According to the government plan the timetable is:
From 1 June, 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 reopen 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.
It’s important to note that currently there are no firm dates for schools to fully reopen in England, and plans will be kept under review as the Covid-19 risk continues to be monitored. There are no plans to reopen secondary schools or colleges for the majority of pupils until September.
Until these plans move forward, schools, colleges and nurseries remain closed for most children but offering places for three priority groups of children. Firstly, the children of keyworkers who would otherwise be unable to carry out essential work . Look here to see who is identified as a keyworker. Secondly, vulnerable children such as children with a child protection plan and children in care, and other children identified as vulnerable, some young carers for example. The third group is children with EHCPs. Having an EHCP does not necessarily mean your school will offer them a place in school, but it does mean your school should be considering them individually to identify if they need this. They should be deciding this by doing a risk assessment to identify any children with an EHC plan whose care needs or home situation mean that it is safer for them to attend school than not (more about these risk assessments below). The government also particularly asked that Alternative Provision e.g. PRUs stay open as pupils there are likely to be particularly vulnerable even if they do not yet an EHCP.
If your child has an EHCP, your child’s school or education setting should have contacted you to do a risk assessment by now. If they have not done this, or if the assessment for your child was done early and you feel that circumstances have changed significantly, you should contact your child’s school. If you do not get a response you could contact your APO or the Children’s Services contact point firstname.lastname@example.org 0345 60 80 192 (East Sussex) or your Casework Officer in the SEN Team (Brighton & Hove).
The risk assessment should have included getting your views and your child’s if appropriate. It should have considered the potential health risks to the individual from coronavirus. It should have checked how being out of school is affecting your child, for example the risk to them if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered for the time being and the impact of not having their usual routine, and explored your ability to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely 24/7 for multiple weeks. The school should use all this information to decide whether to offer your child time in school. If the school offer a place, it is your choice whether or not to take this up. If you have not been offered a place in school and feel that this is wrong and your child would be safer going to school for at least part of each week, contact your school in the first instance. If you cannot reach an agreement contact your Casework Officer in the SEN Team (Brighton & Hove) or your APO or the Children’s Services contact point email@example.com 0345 60 80 192 (East Sussex) The Amaze SENDIASS helpline can give advice and support.
East Sussex ISEND services such as educational psychology, ESBAS and CLASS are working in different ways but as close as possible to business as usual. They are offering guidance to schools and if your child was already being supported by an ISEND service you can contact them direct.
East Sussex ISEND have confirmed that children who are between school placements or not placed are being included on the list of “vulnerable children” for consideration of a planned response. The Teaching and Learning Provision (TLP) which provides education packages for pupils not in school, or between placements are still offering face to face education through their centres, or online.
EHCP processes during coronavirus
If a different school is named in an EHC plan during the coronavirus period, that school must still admit your child by adding them to the school roll. They should then consider them in the same way as existing pupils and do a risk assessment to see if they should offer them a place in school now or support their education at home for the time-being.
Brighton & Hove
The SEN Team at Brighton and Hove City Council are working from home and prioritising essential work including completing EHC needs assessments and producing EHC plans. They are having to work differently in these difficult times. Read more about about how the Brighton & Hove SEN Team are working currently.
Reports by professionals will be done based on existing knowledge of a child and contact by phone and video conferencing e.g. Skype. Educational Psychologists will use a consultation approach, talking to parents, school and in some cases the child or young person. It will be noted that the reports were written during the coronavirus period and where necessary they may be amended later. There will not be a co-production meeting. The casework officer will prepare a draft plan based on all the advices which will go to SEN Panel and then be sent to you, the school and professionals who wrote the advices. You will then get a call to talk it through and you will be able to comment and ask for changes as you would have done at a co-production meeting. You and your child should still be actively involved in the process.
The SEN Panel is till meeting with the usual multi-agency membership including a parent representative.
ISEND services at East Sussex County Council are all still operating. Obviously they will be having to work differently in these difficult times, but the Assessment and Planning Team will still complete EHC needs assessments and produce EHC plans, keeping to normal timescales as far as possible.
Your APO should let you know if there are any delays and keep you updated. Reports by professionals may have to be done based on existing knowledge of a child , perhaps with some assessment by phone or video link. You and your child should still be actively involved in the process.
Educational Psychologists and Children’s Integrated Therapy and Equipment Service (CITES) therapists are continuing to assess children, where possible seeing children directly, either in their home, in schools (if they are attending) by pre-arrangement or in clinics. Where this is not been possible, assessment is being carried out from a range of sources such as phone calls and evidence from the school. Reports, statutory assessments and EHCPs being drawn up during Covid-19 are annotated to document that this was the case. This will be helpful once life returns to normal if you realise you want to review advice and provision in EHCPs written in the current situation.
The Inclusion Multi-Agency Resource Panel (IMARP) is following its usual timetable.
Any changes to provision are only temporary. The government guidance is clear that parents who consent to changes to, or reductions in, their child’s provision during this outbreak will not be considered to have agreed a permanent change to what their child needs in their EHC plan.
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 LA about this to see what review mechanisms could be put in place.
Appeals and mediation
Tribunals are going ahead during the coronavirus period. SEND Tribunal hearings are being carried out on paper (if all parties agree) or by telephone or video call. If you have a hearing coming up the tribunal service will contact you to make arrangements. The Tribunal have asked parties not to call them until 2 days before hearings if they haven’t heard anything as, like every public service, they are affected by staff shortages as a result of COVID-19.
Since 30 March 2020, appeals and claims have been prioritised by the judiciary and consideration given to the use of additional approaches including triaging of cases to ensure that decisions are made proportionately. With these measures, it is expected that there should be no need to adjourn hearings if the parties are ready to go ahead, even though they may not be able to take place in person.
For new appeals, timescales and priorities have changed in the light of the current emergency. Any new appeals are now going to be listed on a 20-week timetable, unless it is about a phase transfer, which will be 12-14 weeks.
IPSEA also have helpful information and tips
See our page about surviving the lock down on the Compass Card website. This has a thorough list of resources and links for educational activities and fun for children with additional needs and is not only for families that have a Compass Card. It is regularly updated. There’s a separate guide for young people too. East Sussex Parent Carer Forum (ESPCF) have drawn up a great list too (Read ESPCF’s covid-19 guide here) so we are not putting other ideas and links here, but do look at the Government guidance for parents about supporting your child with education at home which has advice and links to resources to use. It includes a SEND section.
In Brighton & Hove, BHISS services are all still working but in different ways. If you or your child was getting advice and support from a BHISS team you can contact them and they may offer advice and support by phone, email or a video call. In East Sussex, ISEND services such as CLASS and CLASS+ are still working too and, again, you can look to them if you need help. You can always contact the Amaze SENDIASS helpline for additional support and to hear about online drop ins and groups. You can seek peer support from other parents/carers on the Amaze Facebook Group or other local parent-led SEND groups in your area.
The following resources have some helpful tips for coping with a lockdown:
Also see our section on health and wellbeing.
It may help to create a timetable for your child so they can have structure in their days at home, even if you keep it quite relaxed and simple. The ISEND educational psychology service have created a pack to help you with setting up a routine or timetable. And here’s another example of a visual timetable. Or visit Autism Train’s website. They have put together several useful resources about creating a routine and using a visual timetable.
Further information on education issues and COVID-19
Brighton & Hove
Brighton & Hove City Council have information about how their services are being affected on their website. Visit https://new.brighton-hove.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19
Or read the the coronavirus help directory for Brighton & Hove.
There is a central ESCC contact point for all queries relating to Children’s Services and provision in the current difficult situation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 60 80 192 (10am-3pm) and they will try to get back to you or pass it on to the right service to do so.
East Sussex County Council also have information about how council services are being affected on their website.
If you can’t get find out what you need to know locally, the Department for Education has set up a helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:
Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday