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SENDIASS Southend
Special Educational Needs & Disability Information, Advice & Support Service

Coronavirus Information for SEND Families

With so much information about Coronavirus being published, we want to ensure you can easily access accurate information that may help you to make the best decisions for your family.

On this page, we have identified information that is relevant to families who have children with special educational needs and or disabilities.

You can read the latest guidance for schools, colleges and local authorities on the Gov.uk website.

 

The Department for Education (DfE) Helpline

The Department for Education (DfE) helpline offers guidance to professionals with education-related questions on coronavirus within early years, primary and secondary schools, further education (6th form or college) and higher education (universities). They also provide information for parents, carers and young people.

Tel: 0800 046 8687 (open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm), or email at DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk 

Q&A About Coronavirus & School, Education & SEND

Questions from parents and carers. Guidance is still changing and so we will update this page regularly.

Education settings have now reopened and are subject to new guidance on how to manage risk and reduce transmission of COVID-19. In addition to schools, this guidance also applies 16-19 academies and special post-16 settings. 

There is additional separate guidance for special settings and forfurther education (FE) settings.

It’s important to note that this is not statutory guidance – but schools, colleges and other places of education should use the guidance to plan how they will deliver education. 

The guidance for parents explains that all pupils should now be attending school unless they are self-isolating because they:

  • have symptoms or have had a positive test result
  • live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive and are a household contact
  • are a close contact of someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19)

Or,

  • they are one of the very small number of pupils under paediatric or other specialist care and have been advised by their GP or clinician not to attend.

Educational setting’s statutory duties for children and young people with SEND remain the same as they were prior to COVID-19. For mainstream settings, this means using their best endeavours to secure that the special educational provision called for by the pupil’s or student’s special educational needs is made. All settings must have regard to the SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2015 unless they are wholly independent.  

If you have questions about how SEN Support will be delivered, ask to speak with the SENCO or staff member responsible for this.  See our page about EHC needs assessments and EHC plans if your child or the young person has an EHC plan. 

The government’s message is that any restrictions on education are a last resort. The DfE (Department for Education) has contingency guidance in place which states: 

If there is extremely high prevalence of coronavirus (COVID-19) and existing measures have failed to reduce community transmission, restrictions affecting education and childcare may be necessary as a last resort to reduce the overall number of social contacts in our communities and help protect the NHS.” 

The guidance is clear that restrictions on attendance require “explicit approval of the DfE” and should not be used because a setting faces operational challenges. 

This is going to be something to discuss with the school. It is expected that most settings will review their students following their return to school to try to identify gaps in learning and barriers to learning arising from their prolonged periods of absence. 

To assist in supporting the return to school and catch up provision, grants are available for state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the 2020-21 academic year. 

Last year, the Coronavirus Act 2020 temporarily amended the absolute duty to make the provision in an EHC plan to a ‘reasonable endeavours’ duty.  This meant that during the specified period of notices made under the Act (1 May to 31 July 2020) LAs needed to do whatever they reasonably could to put provision in place, but if they could not do so they would not necessarily be breaching the law. 

Since 31 July 2020, however, the Children and Families Act 2014 duties have come back into full force. This means that LA’s have an absolute duty to secure the special educational provision specified in an EHC plan and settings named in EHC plans that are not wholly independent must admit the child/young person. 

The DfE has issued guidance relating to children’s social care. This confirms that social care services for disabled children and young people should continue and includes examples of this working effectively during the pandemic.

 If you receive direct payments and are unable to secure the provision that was agreed as a result of COVID-19, you should contact your LA to agree alternative arrangements. 

In relation to adult social care, there are currently no changes to LA’s duties in force.

Local Guidance from Southend Borough Council

Southend Borough Council has a Coronavirus Advice and Support page and a Southend's Local Offer also has a Coronavirus information page, where you can find more up to date information.

Other sources of useful information about Coronavirus

Contact, the charity for families with disabled children, also has a COVID-19 information page with lots of information about support for children with disabilities and complex health needs, benefits and financial support and coping at home.