Vicky Ford the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families has published a new letter to parents and carers of children and young people with SEND, their families and those who support them.
The letter is dated 05 March 2021 and summarises the government's most recent guidance about the return to schools and educational settings, public health, and provides information about testing, vaccinations and face coverings in schools.
There is also information about the continuation of specialist support services and therapies, resources for mental health and wellbeing, and the government's plan for education recovery after the disruptions of the past year.
Letter to parents and carers of children and young people with SEND, their families and those who support them - From Vicky Ford MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families (pdf)
2 March - Important clarification re clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people and schools reopening
Following the announcement by the government that schools will be fully re-open from the 8th March, a number of parents of children currently on the shielding list may be planning to send their children back into education from that date.
However, government guidance is that clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people should not attend school or other educational settings. Schools and colleges must continue to make appropriate arrangements for this group to continue education at home. These formal shielding measures will apply across the whole of England until at least 31 March.
Children who are currently shielding should continue to do so until they are formally advised by a clinician that they are no longer on this list. This guidance is on page 32 of the Schools Coronavirus (COVID-19) Operational Guidance (pdf), released in February.
The advice for pupils who have been confirmed as clinically extremely vulnerable is to shield and stay at home as much as possible until further notice. They are advised not to attend school while shielding advice applies nationally. All 16 to 18 year olds with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality will be offered a vaccine in priority Group 6 of the vaccination programme. At present, these children should continue to shield, and self-isolate if they have symptoms or are identified as a close contact of a positive case, even if they have been vaccinated.
Education settings are required to provide remote education to pupils who are unable to attend school because they are complying with government guidance or legislation around coronavirus (COVID-19).
14 January 2021
Open letter from Vicky Ford MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
7 January 2021 - Education and SEND Services during COVID19
On 4 January 2021, the government announced a national lockdown due to Covid-19 and that schools and colleges are closed, until the February half-term (to be reviewed).
We recommend that you also read the updated Frequently Asked Questions on this page (opens a new window)
Mainstream education settings:
Nurseries and pre-schools, including those attached to / on the site of a mainstream school, remain open. All children who attend a nursery can continue to attend.
Schools and Colleges
All Kingston and Richmond state-funded mainstream schools and colleges are closed.
‘Vulnerable’ children and young people can continue to attend mainstream schools and colleges, in line with the national guidelines. ‘Vulnerable’ children and young people include those with Education, Health and Care Plans. Latest government guidance about vulnerable children (opens a new window)
Children and young people who are registered to attend a Specialist Resourced Provision in a Kingston or Richmond state-funded mainstream school can continue attending these, regardless of whether they do or do not have an Education, Health and Care Plan.
Special education settings
All Kingston and Richmond state-funded special schools remain open to ‘vulnerable’ children and young people.
Independent special schools and independent specialist providers remain open to ‘vulnerable’ children and young people.
‘Vulnerable’ children and young people on the roll of state-funded special schools, independent special schools and independent specialist providers are encouraged to attend. If parent(s) prefer to keep their ‘vulnerable’ children and young people at home, they can do so by informing the education setting and requesting a ‘leave of absence’.
As the situation develops, it may be necessary for some special schools and independent specialist providers to review their capacity to continue delivering a full-time, on-site education and provision offer to all children and young people, all of the time. It may be necessary for some education settings to deliver a mix of on-site and remote education and provision.
On 7 January 2021, the government updated its advice: An extract from that advice about special schools and specialist post 16 provision is below:
“We want children and young people (CYP) in special schools, including residential special schools, and special post-16 institutions to continue to receive high-quality teaching and specialist professional support. This is because we know that CYP with SEND, and their families, can be disproportionately impacted by being out of education.
Special schools should continue to welcome and encourage pupils to attend full-time where the parent/carer wishes for their child to be able to attend. Special post-16 settings should continue to welcome and encourage students to attend as per their usual timetable where the YP wishes to attend.
On occasion special schools may encounter circumstances where they cannot provide their usual interventions and provision at adequate staffing ratios, or with staff with vital specialist training. In these circumstances they should seek to resume as close as possible to the child of young person’s specified provision as soon as possible. Pupil level risk assessments, which were used last spring, should not be used to filter CYP in or out of attendance, but could be helpful to prioritise the provision a CYP can get if full time provision for all is not possible.”
Clinically extremely vulnerable
Children and young people who are assessed as clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend their education setting.
‘Vulnerable’ children and young people who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable can attend school.
What education provision can I expect my vulnerable child or young person to receive?
If your ‘vulnerable’ child or young person is attending their education setting, they can expect to receive their education and any support / provision in their Education, Health and Care Plan, if they have one.
There are currently no relaxations to the ‘best endeavours’ duty on schools, colleges and Local Authorities to deliver the provision in the Education, Health and Care Plan. But there are practical limitations to what education settings and Local Authorities might be able to deliver, or how provision might be arranged either in the education settings or via remote learning. This is due to the impacts of the pandemic such as staff availability and the requirements to socially distance.
If your ‘vulnerable’ child or young person is unable to attend their education setting, perhaps because they are extremely clinically vulnerable, they can expect to receive remote education provided by their education setting. Education settings will need to make the provision in Education, Health and Care Plans remotely, which may be affected by those same practical limitations.
It is now a requirement that all schools offer remote education. Primary schools (KS 2+) must provide 3 hours a day, on average; Secondary schools must offer 4 hours a day, on average.
Education settings may find it helpful to use risk assessments to identify any additional support needed in order to ensure children and young people can safely attend full-time education. Risk assessments may also prove useful in the event that children and young people have to self-isolate. Any risk assessments undertaken should inform a plan of action which focuses on supporting children and young people’s attendance and engagement in education. Risk assessments should involve parents and incorporate the views of the child or young person.
What therapy provision can I expect my vulnerable child or young person to receive?
Where education settings are open, or where a ‘vulnerable’ child or young person is already in receipt of education setting based therapy, therapists will continue delivering their therapies at the education setting where it is considered safe to do so. All education settings have been risk assessed and staff will wear full PPE and are carrying out lateral flow (rapid) Covid-19 testing two times weekly.
Where children or young people are not attending their education setting, therapists will deliver input remotely either with the child or young person and / or parent or carer in whatever way is most effective / accessible.
What Educational Psychology provision can I expect my vulnerable child or young person to receive?
The Educational Psychology Service continues to operate as it has done throughout the pandemic. As such, Educational Psychologists are available to work to best support individual school needs.
Parents who prefer to keep their children and young people at home
Some parents may prefer to keep their ‘vulnerable’ child or young person at home. Parents should contact their child or young person’s education setting and request a ‘leave of absence’. This is so that the education setting is clear and informed about the child or young person’s whereabouts. Schools should endeavour to remain in regular contact with the parents, children and young people by phone, email or virtual meeting (e.g. ZOOM or similar) to support learning and fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.
Where parents keep their ‘vulnerable’ child or young person at home through a leave of absence, the education setting and Achieving for Children is not under the same duty to make their ‘best endeavours’, only the duty to make a remote education offer. Achieving for Children expects that education settings will, nonetheless, strive to deliver the provision in Education, Health and Care Plans remotely, which may be affected by those same practical limitations as for all other children receiving their education remotely. For example, it may be possible for children and young people who ordinarily attend a social skills group or who receive speech and language therapy intervention to continue to do so through video conferencing, though the impact of this may be different than if it were delivered in-person.
Timescales for Education, Health and Care Needs Assessments, Education, Health and Care Plans, Annual Reviews
There are currently no legislative relaxations or changes to these statutory timescales. Achieving for Children is continuing to strive to achieve these statutory timescales, within the practical limitations of the pandemic and the impact it is having on staffing both within AfC and in other agencies involved in these processes.
Ian Dodds, Director of Children's Services and Tonia Michaelides, Executive Locality Director, Richmond and Kingston Clinical Commissioning Groups sent the following letter on 25 June:
A letter has been sent to parents and carers of children and young people who have an Education, Health and Care Plan. It outlines the process that should be followed by schools when conducting risk assessments.
Read the letter on the Risk Assessment (opens a new window) page.
Letter to children and young people with EHCPs and their families
Ian Dodds, Director of Children's Services and Tonia Michaelides, Managing Director, Kingston & Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) sent the following letters on 23 April:
At the same time Young People in the SEND Participation Groups shared their top tips and positive messages with children and young people to help them during the COVID crisis.