National SEND Reference Group

Acting with urgency and determination to secure effective risk assessment and safe operation for schools/colleges supporting pupils with complex SEND during COVID-19.

 

Why is the National SEND Reference Group needed?

It has become increasingly clear that in the fast-moving daily challenges being experienced by the sector during the current pandemic there is a need for consistency and timeliness of responses, opportunities and support offered nationally, regionally and locally. There is a need to share developing skills and the emerging best practice effective risk assessment and safe operation for schools/colleges supporting pupils with complex SEND during COVID-19.

Who will be part of the National SEND Reference Group?

The National SEND Reference Group is chaired by Professor Adam Boddison and made up of about twenty system leaders* with a wealth of both operational and strategic leadership expertise across the education system and age range. They represent all areas of the country and there is a breadth of experience in relation to complexity of need. All have agreed to working collaboratively in pursuit of sharing skills and experience and learning from each other. They have therefore committed to sharing knowledge, ideas and information in an equitable and solution focused approach to securing effective risk assessment and safe operation for schools/colleges supporting pupils with complex SEND during COVID-19. The SEND Reference Group will be attended by officials from the Department for Education and other Departments as appropriate.

What is the rationale for the membership of the National SEND Reference Group?

One of the key priorities for this group is to consider how operational risk assessment is implemented during the COVID-19 crisis, initially to explore areas such as workforce access to PPE and testing facilities. The membership of the group reflects its core operational purpose. The group’s remit includes complex SEND and the day-to-day challenges and risks in relation to keeping safe during Covid-19 are arguably more acute at the specialist end of the sector. Therefore, the membership of the group is intended to represent the breadth and diversity of specialist sector, including across the regions and settings serving different pupil populations. Individuals and organisations who would like to raise questions with the Department for Education during Covid-19 may wish to use the Frequently Asked Questions service provided by the Council for Disabled Children. For questions relating to specific individual circumstances the Contact helpline (0800 808 3555) and website are an excellent source of information and support. 

When will the SEND Reference Group be available?

The SEND Reference Group has been formed during the last few days in response to the growing concerns and urgency of requests from schools and settings in their attempts to meet the needs of learners and their families whilst keeping them and their staff as safe as possible. The SEND Reference Group has moved quickly to agree Terms of Reference* which will support its activity. It will be available to provide support and facilitate communication throughout the current emergency acting as a two - way channel of communication between school leaders and the Department for Education and other national agencies. It will also be working together with Government departments to plan for as smooth a return to school and college as possible for all children and young people who are especially vulnerable. For this reason, initially the SEND Reference Group will operate for nine months (until the beginning of 2021.)

How will the National SEND Reference Group operate?

The National SEND Reference Group will support and challenge all in the sector through the sharing of practice and ideas. It will respond to communication needs of Government departments and share intelligence and practice from schools and colleges from across the regions. It will be responsive to the needs of schools and colleges in relation to complex SEND. The group will meet remotely, initially at least on a fortnightly basis and throughout the school closure period and into the return to school period. Members will actively raise and address the needs of the sector through the meeting agendas and will feed back to the groups they represent on an ongoing basis. The National SEND Reference Group will support planning for the Covid-19 exit strategy. 

National SEND Reference Group - Terms of Reference

 

Minutes are available on request.