Phased re-opening of schools to additional pupils who have SEND

Published Friday, 22 May 2020

We recognise that for children and young people who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and their parents and carers, the ongoing situation as a result of COVID-19 is bringing uncertainty and concerns about returning to school or college.

We have been listening to the views of families from across the borough. We understand that for all families, the support and structure provided by education settings is very important not only in terms of access to learning but also for health and wellbeing. We acknowledge that some families remain concerned about sending their child back to school, whilst for others the time is right to consider a phased return.

The government  has released new guidance for parents and carers around the reopening of schools to additional pupils.

The council is working with schools across the borough to prepare for the potential phased re-opening of schools from 1 June. Schools have been working with families to identify those pupils that will be potentially requiring a school place.

Special schools, special post-16 institutions and additional resource provisions will work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups and informed by risk assessments (as per the government’s guidance).

Educational settings are speaking to parents and carers to determine whether their children and young people who have SEND are able to have their needs met at home, or will be as safe or safer attending an educational setting.

The government is encouraging children and young people in the eligible year groups and priority groups (such as children of critical workers) to attend, as requested by their school or college, unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions).

Parents should notify their child’s school or college as normal if their child is unable to attend so that staff are aware and can discuss this.  Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time.

If your child’s normal school or setting cannot offer a place, you can request education provision in the borough.

Temporary changes to the law on Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans

The government recently announced temporary changes to the law on Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessments and plans, which provides some flexibilities for local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and others who contribute to these processes in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The Secretary of State for Education issued a notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014, which means that the duty to secure or arrange provision in an EHC Plan is temporarily modified. During this time, local authorities or health commissioning bodies have a duty to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to do so.  This guidance is applicable to 31 May 2020 and will be reviewed before 1 June 2020 and further guidance is anticipated.

This means that where an education or health provider cannot fulfil the provision in a young person's EHC Plan during this time, they must instead seek to support their needs in a different way, for example, this might involve offering support virtually rather than face to face. We are currently working in collaboration with partners and providers across the local area to support education and health providers to consider reasonable endeavours as best they can in collaboration with families.

EHC needs assessments

Local authorities must still consider requests for a new EHC needs assessment and through this process secure all of the required advice and information in order to complete the assessment. It is critical that throughout this process, we continue to have regard to the views and wishes of a child, the child’s parent or a young person when carrying out the assessment.

There are also changes in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Regulations, temporarily amending the statutory timescales for various EHC needs assessment and plan processes. The changes temporarily amend four sets of regulations that specify timescales that apply to local authorities, health commissioning bodies and others.

You can read the full guidance on the government’s website.

Support to families

In recognition that many children, young people and their families are facing numerous challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, education providers, council officers, health and other professionals are working together to ensure adequate and appropriate arrangements are in place to keep in touch with families.

Where it is identified that some families would benefit from regular contact by phone, to offer consistent support in addition to that provided by other services known to the family, a team of education professionals has been set up to make weekly or fortnightly calls. The project has been operating for four weeks and feedback from families has been very positive.

Many report that the opportunity to discuss their situation with a regular caller, who is able to signpost them to local and national support, offer advice, guidance and resources to support a child or young person’s education or simply to listen to their concerns is much appreciated.

Those making the calls report back on the key themes emerging from all calls to enable council and health colleagues to respond to parents and carers concerns. Any significant concerns can be escalated without delay to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and families.

Parental engagement: an update

The effective engagement of children, young people and their families is a key priority in our SEND Strategic Vision and Priorities.

We are pleased to announce that from 1 June 2020, Your Voice in Health and Social Care (YVHSC) will work with the Council and health colleagues to support the engagement of parents and carers of children and young people who have SEND.

YVHSC currently deliver Healthwatch and Advocacy services in a number of London boroughs.

We continue to work closely with Bromley Parent Voice (BPV) and value this strong partnership. We will continue to work with BPV as the Department of Education funded Parent Carer Forum and a member of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

Information Advice and Support Service (IASS)

The IASS helpline is being provided between 9.30am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm from Monday to Friday by calling 020 8461 7630 or via email at iass@bromley.gov.uk.

Although they are not providing face-to-face meetings, they are working with council staff, schools and CAMHS to support families at virtual meetings.

CAMHS Crisis Line

We wanted to let you know the CAMHS Crisis Line out of hours service is open to all children and young people across south London until 11pm weekdays and between 9am - 11pm over the weekends.

The telephone line provides out of hours support and interventions to de-escalate crises, reduce A&E attendances and potentially reduce admissions and readmissions to hospital.

The CAMHS Crisis Line can be contacted by calling 0203 228 5980.

Further information

Opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June: guidance for parents and carers - Gov.uk

Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening - Gov.uk

Request for education provision due to Covid-19 closures

Policies, guides and strategies for children and young adults with disabilities and learning needs