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COVID 19 - SEND updates and resources

SEND services during COVID 19

  Update 6 January 2021

We have answered the the following questions which were collated by Jonathan Rourke, SENDIASS Manager, working with local voluntary organisations.

We recommend that you also read the information on the Communication Updates page (opens a new window)

Are we aware of any proposals to change the Section 42 duty for those children with EHCPs to move from “Best Endeavours” to “Reasonable Endeavours”? 

There is no indication at this time that there will be relaxations to the legislation. Mainstream schools, including those with resourced provisions for learners with / without an EHCP, and state-funded and independent special schools remain open to vulnerable children, which includes those with EHCPs.

Here is latest government guidance relating to Covid and schools and other education settings (opens a new window)  

Who is “vulnerable”, will the list issued by the Department for Education (DfE) on 31 December be added to/ reduced?

The latest government guidance about vulnerable children is published on GOV.UK (opens a new window). There is nothing currently to indicate that this will change.  

The messages from central Govt were that early years and special schools will remain open, how easy is this going to be to achieve, especially if staff children are not offered don’t want to take up places in other schools as key workers? And are part time timetables in special provision likely/ allowed?

There is nothing currently to indicate that the position of keeping early years and special schools open will change. These arrangements were successfully managed in the earlier national lockdown. There are some schools where the on-site offer may need to be reduced intermittently. This may be due to severe staffing shortages, as a direct result of COVID 19. In those instances, Achieving for Children (AfC) will work collaboratively with the school leadership to review what support can be offered remotely, for the days a young person cannot attend the setting. 

Do we know what the Government and/or AfC are going to ask of schools in terms of any risk assessment and if so will that be similar to the first lockdown or not?  Looking at who is safest at home and then how to support them?

AfC has already communicated with state funded mainstream and special schools in its area. We have reminded headteachers of their responsibility to conduct risk assessments in relation to children’s education arrangements and to share those with AfC’s SEND Service.

It remains a matter of parental preference whether to send a vulnerable child to school or not, though AfC and schools are encouraging their attendance, in line with government guidance. 

If yes to the above, will the schools be asked to do this with parents, carers and young people and not to them as for some this was the feedback last time was that some were given a decision rather than a discussion as part of the assessment?

The guidance to schools encourages their conducting risk assessments with families. Our example risk assessment is named ‘Collaborative Risk Assessment’. Please see response re appeals as described below. 

What happens if a parent elects to keep their child at home and they have an EHCP?  What happens to the duty to make provision? Will the position be that they have a place for onsite learning available and the parent has elected to keep them at home so provision does not need to be provided at home? What are the checks and balances that will be in place to make sure children don’t fall off the radar? – will there be at least weekly contact from schools requested like last time?


Mainstream schools, Specialist Resourced Provisions, Alternative Provisions and state-funded and independent special schools remain open to 'vulnerable' children. There is currently no indication of any relaxation to the ‘best endeavours’ duty. Given the pressures on the entire education system during this further lockdown, it might be unreasonable to expect schools, which are able to make a safe on-site offer, to accommodate any different preferences. 

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.

This is, of course, different to if a child or young person has been considered clinically extremely vulnerable and therefore unsafe to attend the education setting. In which case, it would be reasonable to expect the school to make arrangements to maintain the education and provision offer, to its best ability.

How much weight are we expecting school to give to looking at children and young people who struggled with remote learning in the summer. Is there an expectation that more of these will be offered places this time? Especially for those at SEND support where they could be considered vulnerable on the basis of “those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)” and should the learning needs/ difficulties of the child last time be part of any assessment of an offer?

AfC is asking school leaders to make individual judgments with families and young people who are deemed vulnerable. SENCOs will be considering access to devices and individuals’ ability to access learning remotely, but, must also balance this against whether it is safer for them to be in school or at home. Schools now know very clearly which children and young people previously found remote learning more difficult and will be inviting those children and young people to attend, if they have capacity.

What appeals or resolution process will be in place if parents feel the support offered by school is not appropriate and that can’t be resolved with school?

For children and young people who have an EHCP and are not clinically extremely vulnerable, the expectation is that they will access learning on-site for their education and provision. Parents who choose not to send their child/young person into school, through personal choice, will be offered the online provision the school provides; there will not be an appeal process for this scenario. 

If, for any reason, a child or young person is unable to access on-site education in school due to a staffing shortage, we would expect the school to make alternative interim arrangements with the family. AfC will work collaboratively with the school leadership to find a solution. Given the seriousness of this situation we would anticipate everyone working together in a pragmatic, constructive and solution focused way.

For those who have an EHCP and are clinically extremely vulnerable, and are unable to attend school for on-site learning, the school and associated professionals will work together with the family to deliver the provision in the plan remotely. Any differences of opinion between families, schools and AfC or the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) can be raised to the re-established SEND Advisory Support (SAS) offer where a referral can be made. A multi agency team will consider the information and work collaboratively to find a solution. The SAS form can be found here: SAS Form (opens a new window) 

If a vulnerable child or young person cannot attend the setting specified in their EHCP due to staffing problems or other issues at that setting, would it be AfC’s duty to identify and facilitate a new placement? Applies across Special, SRP and mainstream?

AfC anticipates that schools will work together, with our support, to mitigate this type of scenario, as they did during the first lockdown. 

What is the position on remote learning for CYP who need to shield?

Children who need to shield, due to their extreme clinical vulnerability, can expect schools to make a remote learning offer. 

AfC and the CCGs will be working together closely to review the Risk Assessments for those children and young people, to ensure services are supporting and working with these families. 

What advice is being offered to schools about providing support to children and how support staff should be used if parents choose to keep children at home?

Our schools have learnt so much from the first lockdown and have thought carefully about how staff can be used to support individuals. It is still for the school to organise and arrange the provision for the children and young people in order to meet the identified needs.  

Guidance says schools  should recognise that children with SEND may not be able to access remote education without adult support and the school should work with the family to make any reasonable adjustments required. What does that mean? What are examples of reasonable adjustments? Would it be staff providing 1:1 or small group support remotely to groups of children with particular difficulties, differentiation of the curriculum ?

Reasonable adjustments would be personalised according to individual needs, so cannot be listed here. AfC interprets this to require a school to discuss support which might make learning at home more possible. Good practice would include helping to understand barriers and seeing what can be done to overcome these. These will be dependent on the child(ren)’s and young people’s needs, and availability of staff to provide that adult support.  

Any information on timeline adjustments for EHCPs and annual review processes. (including access for report authors to children and young people to assess or provide up to date advice?

Currently, there are no changes to the legislation for EHC needs assessment; the provision of statutory advice for EHC needs assessment; the 20 week timeline; or Annual Reviews.

Is there an assessment of the likely impact on Year 5 reviews?

AfC has already communicated with schools in its operating area, including the expectation that Annual Reviews go ahead as timetabled. They may, of course, need to take place differently, including remotely.

Is there a likely impact on the process of naming schools for the current Year 6 by 15th Feb?

AfC does not anticipate there being any delays. This process is well underway, with the bulk of placements agreed in draft, and a further meeting taking place with secondary schools week beginning 4 January.

Will testing be offered for children who access on site learning?

Secondary and special schools have started to implement lateral flow testing on school sites for the pupils who are in schools. This has been supported by Public Health colleagues and is based on the national testing programme for schools. 

Are there plans for therapy support and advice to meet plan outcomes where children are either on site or learning from home?

Therapy Services are working in a hybrid way offering both virtual and direct face to face contact. Therapists are liaising with schools and families to arrange the most appropriate intervention. Clearly the prevalence of therapy being delivered virtually will be considered, if this can meet the need and ensure safety.  

What are the plans for supporting mental health of young people this time are there resources that can be redirected based on learning from the summer?

There are many of offers to support children, young people and families’ mental health during this pandemic. Some examples are linked below:

Local organisations that offer support to carers (opens a new window)

Contact - For families with disabled children - your families wellbeing (opens new window)

Emotional Health Service Resource Hub (opens a new window)

COVID 19 - Wellbeing and support resources for families (opens a new window)

GOV.UK COVID-19: guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing (opens a new window)

Mind Charity -  Coronavirus and your mental health – for young people (opens a new window)

Young Minds - Coronavirus advice and mental health support (opens a new window)

What information will be put on the local offer page for parents and when can we expect this to be updated?

The Local Offer is being updated on a daily basis, in response to fast-changing government guidelines. 

Update 24 July - Schools preparation for opening in September 

All Kingston and Richmond Primary, Secondary and Special schools have been contacted to discuss their readiness for opening to all pupils in September. Included in these discussions were considerations around the implementation of government guidance and where additional support might be needed.

Where possible, Achieving for Children is exploring any potential issues and working collaboratively with schools, and other agencies to resolve issues where possible, for example street access issues are highlighted with the relevant local authority highways team, whilst any transport issues are raised with Transport for London. Achieving for Children is working in partnership with Public Health Kingston and Richmond to support their local outbreak plans.

The largest area of concern is around access, with several schools requesting road closures. Individual schools have also reported concerns including:

  • Additional storage for bikes/scooters
  • Staff workforce, depending on shielding guidance
  • Insufficient toilets
  • Low pupil attendance, based on current trends

These concerns will continue to be monitored and solutions explored by the school improvement team to find solutions where possible and ensure all schools are as ready as possible for reopening in September.

The DfE has led presentations for local authorities with clear guidance for children with SEND:

  • All children should be back in school in September and disability should not be used as a reason to exclude or prevent admission
  • There is no expectation that children or young people should need to a repeat an academic year, some may need some targeted support to achieve outcomes 
  • There is no expectation that there will be any further variations to SEND legislation in September
  • Details regarding ‘Catch-up funding’ have been shared with schools. The funding includes Special Schools. In the autumn term schools will be able to assess how it can be used to support pupils for whom the impact of missing school has been most significant

The majority of Kingston and Richmond schools have responded very positively and are currently expected to open, although planning is ongoing in many cases and may need to change, depending on local circumstances before the start of September.  

Charis Penfold
Director for Education Services

Latest guidance

What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autum term - updated 10 July (opens a page on the GOV.UK website)

Guidance for the full opening: special schools and other specialist settings - updated 2 July (opens a page on the GOV.UK website)

Earlier guidance 

Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people (opens a page on the GOV.UK website)

Update - July 2020 

An update on SEND services during the COVID-19 pandemic was presented at the July meeting of the Kingston SEND Partnership Board. The notes and update summary are published on this page (opens a page on this website)

Update - 6 May  

What are the changes to SEND legislation announced by the Department for Education on 30th April?

On 30th April 2020 the Department for Education published guidance on temporary legislative changes to processes relating to education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans.  These reflect the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic is creating for the system that supports children and young people with special educational needs and their families.   The full guidance can be found at the link below: 

Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) (opens a link on GOV.UK website)

The temporary changes can be summarised as follows:   

a) Under normal circumstances, local authorities or health commissioning bodies have a duty to secure or arrange the support agreed in an education health and care plan. This is changed to be a duty for local authorities or health commissioning bodies to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the support. This might mean for example that the frequency with which support agreed in an EHC plan is delivered is reduced due to less staff being available, or that it is delivered virtually / online rather than face to face to minimise the transmission of coronavirus.  This means that local authorities or health commissioning bodies must do their very best to provide the support specified in an EHCP, but they will not be penalised if they can't for reasons relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

b) Under normal circumstances, specific timescales apply for various processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. For the time being, where it is not practical to meet that time limit for a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the specific time limit will not apply. Instead, the local authority or other body to whom that time limit applies will have to complete the process as soon as is reasonably practicable.  An example of such a time limit is the 20 weeks to issue a plan to someone eligible for one within 20 weeks of the initial request  

The guidance also confirms which key elements of the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans are unchanged. These include that a local authority must still:

a) consider requests for a new EHC needs assessment 

b) secure all of the required advice and information in order to be able to issue a plan

c) have regard to the views and wishes of a child, the child’s parent or a young person

At a time of additional challenge for children and young people with special educational needs and their families, the guidance highlights the importance of local authorities, health services, education settings and all those involved in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans working closely with families, and of involving them fully in decisions about their support.  

What do these temporary legislative changes mean for children and young people with SEND and their families in Kingston and Richmond?  

In April, Ian Dodds (Director of Children's Services) and Tonia Michaelides (Managing Director, Kingston & Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group) wrote to all children and young people with EHCPs and their families.  The letters can be viewed at the link below. 

Letter to children and young people with EHCPs and their families (opens a page on this website)

In the letter, they said that “whether the child or young person is at home or in nursery, school or college, education, health and social care staff will continue to work with families, as well as the child or young person themselves, to do what they can to provide the support agreed in an EHC plan”. This approach will continue.  Staff will deliver the support agreed in a plan as fully as possible, and complete processes as quickly as they can.  

The flexibility offered by the temporary changes will only be used when absolutely necessary and on a case by case basis. These situations will be discussed and explained to those individual parents and carers who will be affected, and as much as possible with the children and young people themselves.  This will happen through updating the  risk assessment process described in the letter from Ian Dodds and Tonia Michaelides.  

Following the announcement of the changes, Achieving for Children has written to all early years providers, schools and colleges where children and young people from Kingston and Richmond are educated, to explain and clarify the expected approach during the time that these temporary changes to legislation are in place. They have also supported online briefings  for all school SENCOs  in the boroughs to ensure that the information is fully understood.    

If parents and carers have questions or issues relating to this, the best place for them to contact is their child’s education provider, whether that be their nursery, school or college. If, after you have done this, questions still remain you can contact the SEND team on 020 8547 5872 or email senteam@achievingforchildren.org.uk.    

The Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) in Kingston and Richmond are also available to offer independent advice and support:

The number for contact with SENDIASS is 020 3793 9596

You will then be able to choose from 5 options:

Option 1: Benefits Advice
Option 2: Richmond SEND Information Advice and Support Service
Option 3: Kingston SEND Information Advice and Support Service
Option 4: Service Manager
Option 5: All other enquiries.

or email: RichmondKingston@kids.org.uk

 
Earlier FAQ's

Given the additional pressure that parents and carers of children and young people with SEND are already under during the current situation, what is AfC doing in Richmond and Kingston to be flexible with timescales relating to the EHC Plan process?  

In the Department for Education's (DfE's) publication "Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people" (link above), paragraphs 21 and 22 relate to EHCP process and provision during the current Coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, AfC is being as flexible as possible during these unprecedented times.  For example, the normal 15 day timescale that parents and carers are given to respond to proposed amendments to plans is now extended to 30 days, and if longer than this is needed parents and carers should contact their SEN caseworker to agree a realistic schedule.  In Richmond, this includes amendments relating to changes arising from the LGO audit.  We hope this approach will help parents and carers during this difficult time.  We will review these timescales again to reflect updated DfE guidance, whenever that is released. 

What is AfC doing to support parents and carers of children with special educational needs, disabilities and complex health conditions now that most children, including some with EHCPs, are unable to attend school? 

We are working closely with our partners in local schools, residential schools and other education providers to understand their current situations and to plan for support outside school where possible. This includes planning for the needs of individual children who will not be in school and/or able to stay in their residential placement.  We have been and will continue to contact parents and carers directly on a priority basis (based on their child's assessed health and social care needs) to discuss the support available to their child as and when we become aware of school and residential unit closures or other changes to their provision.  

What is happening with short breaks provision during the Coronavirus outbreak?  

It is our absolute priority to maintain our safeguarding and social care services, as well as the other essential services that children, parents and carers rely on. Although we have had to close or reduce some of our services, we are working hard to maintain our short break care and family support services for children with special educational needs, disabilities and complex health needs. We are currently working with our in-house teams, commissioned services and voluntary sector partners to deliver as much short break care provision as possible as we know that this will give vital support to parents and carers particularly with closures to schools and residential units.  As part of this, we are seeking to re-task staff from their current roles to support essential services to continue where possible.   

What resources are available to support learning at home if my child is unable to attend school and / or their school closes.   

Schools have been working hard to provide resources for use at home whilst children and young people are unable to attend school.    These may include learning packs to take home or online resources to access from home.  If you have any questions about the resources provided by your child’s school the best place to go is their school, for example to their class teacher or the school SENCO.

Is AfC able to provide any home learning resources in addition to those provided by the school?    

An area has been created on the Local Offer website with materials that you may find useful, and links to resources available on other websites.  We will add to this on a regular basis. Examples are materials suggested by our Educational Psychology Service and Clinical Commissioning Group colleagues. The primary source of home learning resources for your child is their school, as the school will know the individual needs of your child and will therefore be able to provide the most relevant and if appropriate, bespoke materials. 

If parents and carers of children and young people with an Education Health and Care Plan are receiving direct payments for a specific purpose, can we now use this money for other things?  

During current events there is greater flexibility in how direct payments received under the terms of their child's EHCP can be used.  Parents and carers wanting to explore alternative uses should email sendlocaloffer@achievingforchildren.org.uk with details of how they would like to use the money.  Examples of alternative uses might include payment of family members to deliver support.  Please note this might have implications for the individuals concerned, for example the impact on any benefits received.  Please also note NHS guidance re vulnerable groups, which may include relevance for example for elderly family members.  We have published an amended temporary direct payment policy on the Personal Budgets and Direct Payments page on this website. Click here.

If children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) are unable to access their school placement because the school has closed due to COVID-19, can the parents and carers access money associated with the EHCP to buy in support at home?    

While the school term continues, even if a school has closed, there is a responsibility for schools to support children's education provision. This cannot be the same provision as the child would access in school, but could involve online learning and other appropriate activities. Schools should be offering this remote learning to children and young people who have SEND.  This is agreed at individual school level and activities and resources linked to each child or young person's individual needs. It is not possible to withdraw the money associated with EHCPs and already allocated to schools and reassign to families for this period of time.

Is it my choice if my child with an EHCP remains in school? Do I have more choice if resources are pooled and my child is moved to a different setting while school closures are in place?

Yes. It is a parent's decision whether or not to send their child to school.  We will work with parents and schools to make case by case assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations for children with EHCPs. For some, they will be safer in education provision. For others, they will be safer at home. Planning on any pooled resource arrangements (i.e. when schools might combine provision with one or more other local schools) is ongoing, and on the basis that any such arrangements will be done with the best interests of the children in mind and according to their needs.  These decisions are made at school level and if pooling does occur it is not expected that parents will be able to choose the provision they would like their child to access.  If pooling does occur, it would still be the parent/carer’s decision whether or not to send their child to school.

If I decide to remove my child from school now, can I change my mind at a later stage?

If your child is absent from school because they are unwell or your family is self-isolating, your child will be able to return to school once he or she is well or their self-isolation period is completed. If you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, then your child's school place will be maintained subject to a case by case assessment of the health and safeguarding considerations for your child at that time, and your child will be able to return to their school at a later date.  

If I remove my child from school now will the same school place still be available for them when schools reopen?

If your child is absent from school because they are unwell, your family is self-isolating, or you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, then your child's school place will be maintained / kept open for you.  

The only situation where this would not be the case is if you decide that you wish to electively home educate your child in line with the Education Act 1996 and therefore formally inform us that you wish to end your child's current school placement.  Under this, and only this situation, would your child's school placement not be maintained/held open.  

No child will lose their place at their school if parents / carers decide to temporarily keep them off school during these unprecedented events.   

My child has an EHCP.  If they are absent from school because I choose not to send them in during the current COVID-19 arrangements, will this impact the content of their EHCP?  

No.  If your child is absent from school because they are unwell, your family is self-isolating, or you are keeping your child at home for their health and wellbeing or concerns about potential exposure to infection, the decision to do this will not impact the content of their EHCP.

To what extent will the provision in my child's EHCP remain available and be adhered to if children with EHCPs remain in school?

With schools remaining open for children and young people with an EHCP, the expectation is that the provision in a child’s EHCP will continue to be delivered wherever possible and practicable. Due to staffing challenges at the moment, it is likely that not all of the current provision identified in a plan will be exactly the same, but schools and their teams will do the very best they can to ensure children and young people are well supported. The therapy teams will be working with schools to try and meet the needs of individuals but this may be impacted by reduced staff.

There are children with EHCPs who require 1:1 support in order to access education, and some of these children have been advised to self-isolate so can't attend school. Would it be possible to deploy teaching assistants  specifically funded through their EHCP to provide 1:1 support to the child at their home? Or what about providing medical tutoring?

The needs of children requiring 1:1 support in order to access education are being considered on an individual basis alongside the resources available. This, and the option of medical tutoring, should be discussed with your child’s school.  

My child has special educational needs and/ or a disability but does not have an EHCP.  Given that mainstream schools are remaining open for vulnerable children, does this mean that they will be able to continue to attend?

Even though your child does not have an EHCP, their school or nursery will be risk assessing their situation, as they are with all children, and deciding whether or not they are able to offer them a place.  We suggest you contact the school and make them aware of any concerns you may have.  

What can parents and carers do to help support the provision of local services at this time?

Please let us know about any particular situations that arise by emailing sendlocaloffer@achievingforchildren.org.uk.  Please support us by only contacting us if it is necessary; this will allow staff to focus on those vulnerable children and families who most need our help and support.

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