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Children with SEND
Advice for parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities
Do all SEND pupils have to go back to school in September?
The Government advice for September is that all pupils are expected to return to school unless they have been advised by a specialist medical professional to remain at home. If you think your child has a condition which makes them more susceptible to Covid-19, and you do not already have a letter from the specialist or GP, you should contact the medical professionals they see regularly for advice. The Government advice is that mainstream schools should consult with parents about their child’s return to school in September. It will be different, even if your child has been attending during the coronavirus period.
The advice for both special schools and children with SEND in mainstream gives flexibility to school leaders to arrange for a more phased return of pupils, recognising that many children will need longer and additional support from staff /parents to adapt to the changes to routines, structures and staffing.
How will my child’s EHC plan be met under the new school arrangements?
Children with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan should, from the end of July, be able to fully access the support named in it from their school and local authority, as the Government is not planning to issue any further notices giving local authorities flexibilities around their duties.
The normal statutory duties relating to EHC plans will resume from 25 September as the Government removes the temporary regulations put in place suspending these duties. The timescales that local authorities should follow from that time are set out in Chapter 9 of the SEND Code of Practice.
We have advised our members to consult with parents on the safe return of all pupils. This includes discussing the support that will be in place within ‘bubbles’ for individual SEND children, the staff who will be working with them on a regular basis, class seating plans, arrangements for the beginning and end of the day and flexible behaviour policies.
What is happening with school transport, as my child usually gets collected for school by LA minibus?
The Government is due to issue separate advice about school transport but has not yet done so. The expectation is that school transport will continue to be available. Some local authorities are exploring whether to provide parents/carers with funding to bring their child to school by private transport where they can. It is therefore advised that you contact your LA and school about the transport arrangements for September. The NEU shares many of your concerns around transport and the difficulties with social distancing, mask wearing and how it will work with staggered starts etc.
We have included a detailed section on dedicated school transport in our checklist for mainstream and special schools for the Autumn term (see appendix 1 of the NEU’s checklist for September) Questions include:
- Will drivers and escorts wear mask?
- Will children over the age of 11 have to wear masks?
- What arrangements are in place for cleaning vehicles?
- Will children be supported with hand sanitising and seating arrangements?
- What arrangements are in place if a child is showing symptoms when being collected?
I am struggling to cope. What can I do?
We know you are doing your very best. You are not alone and there are various sources of support. NEU members do not underestimate how difficult this period of school closure will be for many families with children who may find it difficult to understand the restrictions and/or have challenging behaviours which are made more acute by being stuck indoors. The union is working with Government to work out what respite arrangements local authorities might need to develop at speed. Every local authority should be working across all settings to co-ordinate information to parents and support heads. The NEU is calling on Government to give necessary additional support to local authorities to help families with SEND children through this crisis. Please reach out to your school and ask them to refer you to services that can help. If you feel isolated, please use the support signposted below.
How can I get more support?
We know that taking care of your child and trying to meet their needs and develop their interests can feel overwhelming and isolating. You may be missing the support or respite you usually get from the school, or from particular teachers or support staff with whom your child has built a good relationship. You may also have other children at home with you. You may need to try and get some paid work done at the same time as all the aspects of caring and parenting.
These are organisations that can give you specialist advice, listen to your experiences and connect you to other parents and carers making the same journey. We will add to this section regularly, so please keep checking back.
- Special Needs Jungle – A really useful website for families which includes the latest information on SEND issues and blogs from experts.
- Contact – Free helpline number: 0808 808 3555. An excellent website (and free helpline) with up-to-date coronavirus advice for families with disabled children.
- Ambitious About Autism – Support and advice for families of children with autism.
- Child Autism UK Helpline – 01344 882 248. Support and advice for families of younger children with autism.
- Sense UK – Helpline: 0300 330 9256. The information and advice section gives accessible advice on the coronavirus for families of children with complex disabilities.
A number of organisations have closed Facebook support groups for families (search Facebook to join):
- Parent Support Group – support for parents and carers of teens and young adults with learning disabilities
- Parents and carers of children with ASD/Aspergers (UK)
- FIGS – Fighting Inequality for Girls on the Spectrum
- Not Fine in School: family support
- Children with Disabilities – parents, guardians, and carers support and advice
- Disabled Children’s Partnership
- Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) Support Group
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