A letter from the Minister of Education for families of children with SEND and those working with them.
Vicky Ford MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
Sanctuary Buildings 20 Great Smith Street Westminster London SW1P 3BT
tel: 0370 000 2288 www.education.gov.uk/help/contactus
2nd September 2020
Letter from Minister Ford to children and young people with SEND, their families and carers, and those who work to support them
As minister with responsibility for special educational needs, I wanted to write to you about support for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to return to school.
Return to school
I am extremely grateful to those working in schools and colleges for the preparations they have made to ensure all children and young people can get back into the classroom, with many returning for the first time since March. I recognise that for children and young people with SEND, and their families and carers and those who work tirelessly to support them, this is a particularly challenging and anxious time.
Returning to education is vital for the education of all children and for their wellbeing – time out of school is detrimental for children’s development, particularly for disadvantaged and vulnerable children. All children and young people value the structure and routine of regular attendance as well as the support and strong positive relationships provided by their school or college. It is critical that all children can one again benefit from a full time five day a week on-site education.
I do recognise, though, that the return to school may be more difficult for some children and young people, particularly those who have had to shield, received their education remotely without full access to specialist support, or been exposed to a range of adversity and trauma including bereavement, anxiety and in some cases increased welfare and safeguarding risks. Schools and colleges should work with children and young people with SEND and their families and carers so that they receive the education, therapeutic/specialist support, and reasonable adjustments that they need. The prolonged period of absence from schools and colleges may contribute to disengagement with education upon return to school, resulting in anxiety which could lead to increased incidence of poor behaviour. School leaders should be mindful that disruptive behaviour might be the result of unmet educational or other needs and consider whether a multiagency assessment is necessary.
The Whole School SEND (WSS) Consortium have produced a handbook to support educational professionals to successfully re-engage pupils with learning after a period of disruption. They have also produced a COVID-19 SEND Review Guide to help schools reflect on their provision before September and a leaflet to support families and carers ask questions to schools to support successful returns. These resources are available on the SEND Gateway and webinars are hosted on WSS’s YouTube page shortly after being delivered. Details of future training sessions are held on the events page of the SEND Gateway. You can opt to join Whole School SEND’s community of practice when you sign up for an event to receive notifications about future training and resources as they are published.
To assist all school leaders and staff in welcoming back all pupils, we have developed a tool for mainstream schools to support the re-engagement of pupils. To further support schools, our full opening guidance advises that schools and specialist settings should update their behaviour policy to reflect the new protective measures, as well as any new rules and routines.
In the event that a pupil’s behaviour warrants disciplinary action, the normal rules apply and the disciplinary powers, including exclusion, that schools currently have remain in place. Permanent exclusion should only be used as a last resort and must be lawful, reasonable, and fair. Where a child with a social worker is at risk of exclusion, their social worker should be informed and involved in relevant conversations. Any disciplinary exclusion of a pupil, even for short periods of time, must be consistent with the relevant legislation. Headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an Education, Health and Care Plan. Pre-empting that a pupil may commit a disciplinary offence, and thus not allowing a pupil to attend school is an unlawful exclusion.
Ofsted will continue to consider exclusions, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion and to look for any evidence of off-rolling. Off-rolling is never acceptable. Ofsted is clear that schools placing pressure on parents to remove their child from the school (including to home educate their child) is a form of off-rolling. Elective Home Education should always be a positive choice taken following a discussion between parents the school, and the local authority about how the needs of the child might best be met. This is particularly important where vulnerable children, children in need, and those at greater risk of harm are involved.
It may be necessary to undertake individual risk assessments to understand the level of additional support a child or young person may need. These can help reassure pupils, families and carers, and staff that it is safe for the pupil to be welcomed back to school. Risk assessments should inform a plan of action which focuses on supporting attendance and engagement and identifies what additional support children and young people need to make a successful return to their full time education. Such an assessment would also be useful if children and young
people have to self-isolate or if a local outbreak of Covid-19 requires a school or college to return to more limited attendance.
To provide further reassurance, we have also updated our guidance on face coverings. Schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in indoor communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed, if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances. In areas of national government intervention where the transmission of the virus is high, in education settings where Year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
However, we have been clear that some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings, including people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or people who are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate. The same exemptions will apply in education settings, including for staff providing specialist interventions and therapies, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs. More information on face coverings can be found here.
Specialist and visiting practitioners
Settings should minimise the number of visitors where possible, however, visiting specialists such as therapists, clinicians, peripatetic teachers and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual, including moving between settings as required. Visitors may also include NHS staff, such as those delivering vaccinations as part of the national childhood immunisation programme, which are essential for children’s health and wellbeing. Such specialists will be aware of the PPE most appropriate for their role.
Mental health and wellbeing
There will be some children and young people with SEND who will return to school with additional social, emotional and mental health needs. NHS mental health services remain open and have adapted to provide ongoing support to children and young people who need it. NHS mental health trusts are ensuring ongoing access to 24/7 crisis lines to support people of all ages.
The Wellbeing for Education Return programme will provide £8 million of funding, training, and resources for local authorities to equip education staff with resources, training and ongoing advice and support to promote children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health. This will link to and include resources sensitive to and supportive of children and young people with SEND.
Aerosol generating procedures
There are a small number of children with complex needs that require aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) to be undertaken. Schools, health and local authority partners need to work together on how the current guidance applies in their setting and to the specific children they are working with in order to enable them to return to school safely. We have heard examples of good practice locally and are working with PHE and NHS England to establish whether any changes to the guidance or further information about practice principles are needed. It is important that schools communicate clearly with parents on progress towards supporting children who need AGPs to return to school safely.
There may be other reasons where any child or young person may be absent from school, including those with SEND. Where children and young people are receiving hospital education on hospital sites then should continue to be supported, including through remote learning support as necessary, to minimise the impact of their hospital stay on their education.
Once again, we would like to thank you for the hard work that you have done to prepare for the full return of children and young people for the new school year.
Vicky Ford MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
Return to School Autumn 2020 - Support for children with SEND and their families
We know most children and young people have not been routinely attending education for some time and while many pupils will be looking forward to returning with their friends, this could be a challenging time for some.
Some children were sent transition booklets at the start of the holidays, please do try and find time to look at these again in the run up to the new term. Existing teachers and LSAs will be meeting with new teams to ensure that the transition for each child is as smooth as possible. And please do let new teachers know if your child has any specific worries about returning and we will do our best to address these.
Suffolk Inclusion Service have put in place a package of additional help for families to support the return to education over the next few weeks.
Telephone helpline for families of children and young people with additional needs
We know there may well be questions and anxieties for pupils and their families around what the return to school might bring. The helpline will run from 23rd August through to the end of September with the purpose being to respond to any queries and concerns from our families around the return to school. For example, it might be a child is anxious about the return to school and getting back to learning after the long period of absence. It might be about Special Educational Needs and the support in place for children on their return, or it might be a question around school attendance. Whatever it might be, we hope to offer our help. The helpline number is 0345 606 6172. On calling the number the parent or carer will be asked to provide some detail about their query and it will be directed to the right team/officer for support. A response will be offered within 2 working days.
Psychology and Therapeutic Service Resources
The Psychology and Therapeutic Service has a wide range of resources available to schools and to families to support the return to school. Please do make use of these by following the links below:
SENDIASS have developed these resources to support the return to school:
‘Back to school’. New information section on our website, including examples of transition support and links to other sources of information
‘Back to School – what you need to know in Suffolk’ Our video for parents and carers which aims to help parents understand what to expect
Covid-19 Information for parents and carers. Issue 2: 7 August 2020 -
(FAQ’s from the Inclusion Service)
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS AND DISABILITY (SEND)
At St Edmundsbury Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School our aim is to ensure that all children, whatever their need or disability, make good progress throughout their school life.
For all matters related to SEND, please contact our SENDCO via the school office on 01284 752967 or email email@example.com in this section of the website you will find our School SEND Information
Please open the documents using the buttons below.
The Local Authority's 'Local Offer' for SEND can be accessed using this link: http://infolink.suffolk.gov.uk/kb5/suffolk/infolink/localoffer.page
Suffolk Info Link Emotional Wellbeing Gateway can be accessed using this link: http://infolink.suffolk.gov.uk/kb5/suffolk/infolink/infolink.page?infolinkchannel=2-1-1
Admission Arrangements for Pupils with SEN or Disabilities
At St Edmundsbury Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School, the Governors adhere to the principles of the Equality Act 2010, as laid out and pay particular attention to the way the school operates its admissions procedures,
This school follows the Suffolk County Council Co-ordinated Admissions Policy. Places will be offered to those children with an EHC Needs Assessment that names the school as the appropriate school for the child, even if it is not the catchment school. In making the decision to name a school, parent’s views will be considered carefully by local authority staff.
The best way to find out if this school will meet your child’s needs is to visit the school. Please contact us to arrange an appointment. Parents will be responsible for transporting their child to school if they do not qualify for free or discretionary transport under the Suffolk County Council Home to School Transport Policy.
Please contact SCC for further information: 0845 606 6173.
Please see below for our SEND Policy.
A Guide for Parents
The Department for Education has released a guide for parents and carers of children and young people aged 0-25 years who have special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).
To access the guide click on the link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-guide-for-parents-and-carers
The main entrance has handrails to assist in the use of the steps leading to the front door. Wheelchair access is available through both entrance doors at either end of the school. A disabled toilet is also available.