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Children and young people with SEND - Coronavirus FAQs

This section has been created to answer some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) you may have during the coronavirus outbreak. It has been developed in collaboration with parents and the Merton parent forum Kids First. It covers FAQs from parents of pupils with an EHCP and questions about returning to school from 1 June 2020.

The FAQs are below and also available to download from this page

Children with EHCPs and attending closed schools

Q: I’ve heard that although schools are shut, children with EHCPs can continue to go. Is that right?

A: All schools and educational settings have been partially open for pupils whose parents are key-workers and those that are in the vulnerable group. From 1 June pupils in Nursery, reception Y1 and Y6 classes are also able to attend school.
From 15 June, pupils in Y10 and 12 will be invited to have some face to face time in school.

The government have included pupils with an EHCP in the vulnerable pupil group. This group of pupils are able to access their learning in school. However, the school will discuss with you whether your child/young person’s SEN can be safely met at school this decision is made via a risk assessment discussion.

The initial Government guidance said that if your child/young person’s needs can be safely met at home, then the safest place for them is at home. From 1 June, Government guidance changed and now says if your child/ young person’s needs can be met as safely or more safely in school then they should attend. Again this decision is made via a risk assessment discussion between you and the school.

Annual reviews of EHCPs

Q: Will the annual review of my child’s EHCP still be carried out?

A: In terms of the legal position, there have been no changes to the process for annual reviews and your child/young person’s review should still take place as per the statutory process. However, there may be some circumstances which mean that professionals may not be able to attend or supply updated professional advice to the annual review.

Where a professional is unable to provide reports for the meeting this should be clearly documented as to the reasons this has not been possible. If for some reason your child/young person’s school is closed or key staff are unable to lead the review due to staffing/capacity issues related to COVID-19 then you can contact SEN@merton.gov.uk Please refer to the Annual Review FAQs document for further information regarding annual reviews

Home to school transport

Q: What will happen with home to school transport?

A: Home to school transport is still running as business as usual. However, if you and the setting decide that your child/young person is returning to school, the transport team may require up to 5 days to reinstate transport arrangements.

School staffing issues and low attendance of children

Q: How will my child’s school be able to look after my child if most children are staying at home or if the teaching staff are unable to come in

A: Schools have only been open to a small group of children - those whose parents are critical workers and vulnerable pupils, including those with an EHCP. Staff have split their time between facilitating home learning for the majority of pupils who are remaining at home and the small number coming into school. Even with staff absence because of shielding or self-isolation, schools have generally had enough staff. If capacity were an issue, then schools can join up with a neighbouring school to access their provision (this is called ”hubbing”)

From 1 June, more pupils will be able to attend school and therefore more staff will be deployed in school. Where staffing and space capacity are an issue, schools may need to offer a part-time rota system to accommodate pupils. Key worker pupils and vulnerable pupils will still be able to access as close to a full-time offer as possible if the risk assessment of their needs indicates this is appropriate.

Child health concerns and attending school

Q: I don’t want my child with an EHCP to go to school as they have a weakened immune system or for other reasons. Do they have to go?

A: If a family has received a letter to say that their child has a significant underlying health issue (extremely clinically vulnerable) and must be ‘shielded’, then they must not attend school. Clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19).

A minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category. If your child/young person is not shielded but you still have concerns about your child attending their setting, please discuss this with the setting or email SEN@merton.gov.uk

Starting home learning

Q: I am worried we will be asked to provide some education or learning for our children whilst they are off school, but I wouldn’t know where to start

A: Schools will provide learning tasks for children to complete at home. This maybe online or paper based. Children especially younger children and those with additional needs may require some support to complete this learning. Schools will be in regular contact with parents of children with an EHCP to see how their child is managing being at home and how well they are able to access the learning tasks that have been set.

Vulnerable family members

Q: What do I do if the schools go back and we live in a house with other members of the family that are vulnerable and I don’t want to risk their lives?

A: Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions. Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) as defined in the social distancing guidance and including those who are pregnant, can attend school. This will form part of the risk assessment discussion that schools will have with you as parents/carers

Home learning for a child with learning difficulties

Q: What is regarded as home learning for a child with learning difficulties?

A: The home learning needs of children with learning difficulties will differ depending on the child’s particular barrier to learning. Teachers will set work that best helps meet these needs and helps children to practice their skills and knowledge. Activities may be very skills-based and practical (for example, practising a self-help task or a number or communication skill) or more academic. By staying in regular contact with families, teachers will monitor what activities are working best for children in their home context

Home learning and SEN teaching

Q: How do I get my child to engage with school work at home when they need special teaching in the first place? Is too much pressure being put on parents to do home learning?

A: In setting up home learning, schools will work with parents to establish what is achievable for their child. This will be reviewed regularly. First and foremost, it will be important to establish children’s well-being in this significantly different context. Once this is in place it will be easier to understand what is achievable for each child and their family. Where children have specific therapy goals they are working towards, schools will ask therapy staff to create home learning activities that support achieving these goals.

Supporting emotional wellbeing and life skills learning

Q: The change of routine and the current situation make it very difficult for children and young people with SEND. For many parents their main priority will be to support support emotional wellbeing and life skills type learning and development rather than pressurise them to do online learning, testt papers, etc. This is all very individual to a child's own needs. Some children will happily engage whilst others won't. Parents need to feel supported and their efforts acknowledged with no pressure.

A: Schools understand that children’s well-being is the number one priority. Discussions between parents/carers and school staff on a regular basis will help to understand whether well-being is in place and what learning can be realistically achieved. The government, local authority and schools recognise that home learning is likely to be a challenge for some children and their families.

Whatever support parents are able to provide will help their children to maintain the learning they have achieved this year and support their readiness for learning when schools fully re-open again. The government guidance Supporting children and young people’s mental health and well-being signposts schools and parents to various resources.

Returning to a routine after the long break

Q: How will my child adapt to a change of routine again when schools return after such a long break? Will they be allowed to return in stages?

A: School leaders are aware that this process will need to be managed carefully to ensure children can settle back into school happily. Many schools have begun to talk about a focus on children’s personal and social needs.

For children with an EHCP who have additional needs the child’s class teacher and school SENCo will be able to support both children and parents to re-engage pupils back into school life. There will be a phased return for other pupils but currently pupils with an EHCP can take up provision within the school and this should be discussed with your key contact within your child/young person’s setting.

Support for mental health needs

Q: What support can be put in place for the huge anxiety and depression that this is causing for many children with SEND? For example, many now have a prolonged fear of death for themselves and family members

A: During this period of social distancing it is difficult for schools to support individual children with their mental health needs. The government guidance Supporting children and young people’s mental health and well-being signposts schools and parents to various resources.

Children may find it reassuring to talk to their teacher, a member of the support staff, CAMHS practitioner, therapist over the phone (a parent must be present when this happens.)

Once pupils return to school the range of well-being support resources available to schools can be accessed including the Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs)

Keeping children at home when they are able to return to school

Q: Many parents are concerned about their children returning to school. Will there be an option for parents to keep their children at home until they think it is safe for them to return without being penalised? 

A: Recently published guidance states that pupils in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be able to return to their school in a phased approach. Your school/setting will be in contact to discuss this with you. If you do not take up the planned return to school, the reasons why this decision has been made will need to be documented. At present there will be no penalties for non-attendance.

Please note that pupils with an EHCP have been able to attend provision since the beginning of the lockdown period and each setting will have had a risk assessment discussion with parents/carers about their child/ young person’s attendance.

Return to school from 1 June 2020: children with EHCPs

Q: Will this apply to all children / young people with EHCP's?

A: Children with EHCPs are already able to access provision if the risk assessment of their needs supports this. If you have questions about your child accessing provision, please contact your setting in the first instance.

Return to school from 1 June 2020: special schools

Q: Will this return include special schools?

A: As children who attend special school already have an EHCP, the introduction of more pupils is based on the individual needs of the child and individual school capacity. The priority year groups specified for mainstream schools do not apply to special schools. 

The government guidance says:

Special schools should work towards welcoming back as many children and young people as can be safely catered for in their setting. They may want to prioritise attendance based on key transitions and the impact on life chances and development, and to consider creating part-time attendance rotas so that as many children as possible can benefit from attending their setting. Special settings should work with local authorities and families to ensure that decisions about attendance are informed by existing risk assessments for their children and young people, which should be kept up to date.

Return to school from 1 June 2020: shielding families

Q: What about families who are shielding due to health issues?

A: If your child is not formally shielded (i.e. they have not received a letter from your medical professional or Public Health England stating that your child should follow the shielding advice) they could attend school as long as you as a parent feel confident that this is right decision. If you have any questions about this, please speak to your child’s education setting, case worker or contact SEN@merton.gov.uk

Return to school from 1 June 2020: support for phased return

Q: Will there be support for families such as a phased return?

A: There will be a phased return of pupils to all schools. Each school will manage this to ensure there is sufficient capacity and safety measures in place. Please contact your school to find out how they plan to reintegrate pupils and this should be communicated with you by the setting.

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