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Children with SEND

Advice for parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities

Should every pupil with a EHC (Education, Health and Care) plan in a special school be able to go into school at the moment?

No, not every pupil will be able to attend. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for special schools, but it is important to reduce community transmission of the virus by reducing the number of pupils attending special schools, as with mainstream schools. 

Guidance from the Government Department for Education (DfE), says:

“Where a pupil or student has an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan, it remains the duty of the local authority and health commissioning body to secure or arrange the provision specified in the plan (under section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014). However, there may be times when it becomes more difficult to do so than usual.

“In these circumstances, education settings, local authorities and health partners (where applicable) should discuss with families to co-produce alternative arrangements for delivering provision. These decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis which takes account of the needs of, and circumstances specific to, the child or young person, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

The NEU thinks staff in special schools will need to work with families to establish which students can be safe at home. It is important to get the numbers coming into special schools as low as possible during the lockdown. In many special schools during the last lockdown, rotas were arranged for pupils coming into school to offset the mental health pressures of being at home and allow students to access therapies.

The NEU is advising special schools to use rotas and part-time, in-school provision during the lockdown to keep numbers of students in school lower and to offer additional and timely face-to-face support for those students who most need it.

How will my child’s EHC plan be met under the new school arrangements?

Under the current circumstances the expectation is that the LA retains the duty to secure the provisions in an EHC plan. Government guidance recognises that in some cases this may be more difficult to achieve at the moment.  It recoments that parents, schools and the LA discuss alternative arrangements for children and young people on a case by case basis, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach. 

We know that many special and mainstream schools have used this approach and worked closely with families to offer the best support to young people with EHC plans. In some cases this has included some days with face to face learning in schools and for others it has meant additional support from teaching and support staff with adapted home learning.

My child is clinically extremely vulnerable and has an EHC plan, do they have to go into school?

Advice issued by Government on January 18 makes clear that children and young people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and shielding should not attend their education setting.

What is happening with school transport, as my child usually gets collected for school by LA minibus?

School transport should continue to be available if your child is attending school; if they are not arrangements will remain in place ready for when they do return. Local authorities have worked with transport providers to make the provision as safe as possible and there are guidelines for them to follow.

 The NEU shares many of your concerns around transport and the difficulties with social distancing, mask wearing etc. Questions you may wish to ask are:

  • 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.

You should talk to the school to see whether they are able to offer additional support for you and your child at home or whether the option of your child going into school for some part of the week is feasible, should you want that. These arrangements are subject to staffing levels and the safety of pupils and staff in any given setting. The DfE advice does now allow for schools to use the option of rotas, but only where this can be done safely for the whole school community. 

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 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):

  1. Parent Support Group – support for parents and carers of teens and young adults with learning disabilities
  2. Parents and carers of children with ASD/Aspergers (UK)
  3. FIGS – Fighting Inequality for Girls on the Spectrum
  4. Not Fine in School: family support
  5. Children with Disabilities – parents, guardians, and carers support and advice
  6. Disabled Children’s Partnership
  7. Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) Support Group

Advice

Advice for parents and carers on key areas of concern relating to coronavirus

 

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