As mentioned during her keynote speech at the TES SEN Show on Thursday 14th January, Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Children and Families, has sent an open letter to all children and young people with SEND, their parents/carers and families, and others who support them. The main points include:
- During this lockdown children with an EHC plan should be allowed to attend if parents want them to.
- Remote education should be offered and best endeavours be used to meet their needs.
- Reassurance that limiting attendance at schools does not mean that they have become significantly less safe and protective measures are well-managed.
- Training for educators to support SEND with learning has been put in place.
- EHC plan provision remains a legal duty however where this is made more difficult alternative arrangements should be considered on a case-by-case basis in co-production with families.
- Special schools should continue to be full-time but in some circumstances (for example, where staffing ratios do not allow for this), the aim should be to resume full-time as soon as possible.
- If carers are apprehensive about sending their child into a setting, even if they would benefit from the routine and support, settings should work collaboratively to address their concerns so they are supported to attend.
- Absence during this time will not be penalised.
- Clinically extremely vulnerable children are not advised to attend their education setting during lockdown.
- Mass testing of pupils and school staff in specialist schools is to happen in all secondary-aged settings on a voluntary basis this term.
- There is an exemption to the restrictions on leaving your home where it is for provision detailed in an EHC plan. This means support from health and social care can be accessed where it is reasonably necessary.
- Parents and carers may continue to access respite care.
- Support bubbles for childcare may continue.
- The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer has recently highlighted the importance of not redeploying staff during lockdown so that the provision of therapy services for young people with SEND can continue or be restored if there has been disruption.
Throughout the letter there is frequent thanks and gratitude to parents, carers, professionals and the young people themselves for their understanding and commitment during this time.
Useful links to guidance