As we prepare for schools to reopen I thought it would be helpful to provide an update with regard to SEN.
Firstly, Shropshire schools have been asked to review the general risk assessments for vulnerable children, including those with an EHCP, as well as the individual risk assessments for those children with EHCP’s, who are in the year groups that are due to return to school from the 1st June. As previously risk assessments must be individual and considerations made on a case by case basis, blanket policies and blanket risk assessments should be avoided. Parent carers should have been involved in completing the original risk assessment and should again be involved if additional information is needed or if family circumstances have changed.
Updated guidance published on 26 May, Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening provides information on the risk assessment process and includes children at SEN support, as well as those with an EHCP.
On 30 May 2020 a letter from Vicky Ford MP was sent to all LAs for the attention of: All children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their parents/carers and families, and others who support them. A copy of this letter can be found by clicking on the link above.
The guidance acknowledges that schools have remained open for all children in a priority group and this includes those with an EHCP. From 1 June education settings will be expected to continue to offer places to those children within the priority groups, in addition to the targeted year groups identified for return.
Children with SEN in the targeted year groups will be expected to attend school alongside their none SEN peers. However, it is acknowledged that for some children, the return may be more gradual, especially where the family have concerns and it is important that schools work with families to address any concerns they might have.
Children with SEN, including those at SEN support are likely to require additional support to transition back into school as re-adjustment to routines may be more challenging for children with SEN and they are likely to need additional support to learn the ‘new rules’. Schools are expected to consider the special education needs of children and their experiences during lockdown before applying any behaviour policy/sanctions. Blanket behaviour policies should be avoided.
Schools are being asked to consider how to provide additional support for those children with SEN who continue to access their learning at home in order to ensure that the gap in attainment does not widen and also to support transition back into school at the appropriate time.
Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools have remained open for vulnerable children throughout the lockdown period and all of our special schools serving Shropshire children have provided support and education either in the school setting or through supported home based learning. Special schools are now being asked to welcome back as many children and young people as can be safely catered for in their setting based on risk assessments. Special schools are not being asked to consider a return to school based on specific year groups.
Additional thought is required for those children who are transitioning into a new phase from September. It is important that children are as prepared for this as well as possible and schools will be expected to work together to promote positive transitions between phases.
If you are unsure about what actions your school is taking to support your child with SEN to transition back into school and/or transition to the next phase from September, please contact your school and ask to your child’s class teacher/form tutor or SENCo.
Autism West Midlands are holding some useful webinars including one in July to support the return to school for children with autism.
Personal Protective Equipment
For both children and staff, good hygiene should be practiced at all times and social distancing measures should be implemented as far as possible. The government have identified that scientific evidence shows that there is no need for PPE beyond that which would normally be required within schools. Children showing symptoms of coronavirus should not be attending school. PPE will only be needed in a small number of cases where a child’s care routinely involves the use of PPE.
Temporary Statutory changes:
Relaxation in timescales for EHC needs assessment remains in place in exceptional circumstances. This means that if an EHC needs assessment is requested, please bear in mind that this may be delayed if exceptional circumstances apply. Schools and families will be told where an assessment will be delayed.
Schools have been asked to continue to complete all annual reviews, this remains a statutory requirement and the annual review must take place within 12 months of the previous review. There has been no change to the statutory timescale for annual reviews.
Schools and other organisations are expected to make reasonable endeavours to put in place the provision within the EHCP.
Plans are being put in place to ensure that SEN transport can be delivered safely, in line with Government guidance and further information will be shared in the near future. If your child requires school transport to return to school please make sure your school is aware of this.
The LA have started the process of contacting all families of children who have an EHCP. This is to support the return to school and to identify any concerns that they may have. Feedback will be used to support a positive return to school for all young people.
SEND Service Manager, SEN Team, Shropshire Council