The Government’s announcement on Monday 4 January of a new lockdown in England means people must now stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons, with schools once again being closed to most pupils. Early years settings remain open.
We are working with our parent carer forum, schools, settings, social care and health colleagues to ensure we co-produce the right support for our children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and their families.
Please share any ideas you have about support or guidance you feel would be helpful to you at this time, we are keen to ensure you feel as supported and up to date as possible in these uncertain times.
A DfE/DHSC ministerial letter was also written to children and young people with SEND, their families and those who support them.
See the latest Government guidance for schools.
There is no change to our arrangements for EHC needs assessments, EHCPs or Annual Reviews. Virtual technology will continue to be in use to facilitate EHCPs.
Placement planning also continues unaffected. We'll continue the current arrangements to consult with schools and settings. You may wish to postpone Annual Reviews that are due during the period of national lockdown. Please let your child’s setting and EHCP Coordinator know in writing.
All our duties relating to EHCPs remain in full force. There's currently no sign from the Government that they will change EHCP legislation, as happened during the last lockdown.
There are also no changes to the SEND Tribunal system. Disagreement Resolution and Mediation will continue from our provider Kids, using virtual technology.
Attendance at school or settings
Government guidance confirms schools should grant leave of absence to children where a parent chooses for them to remain at home and receive remote learning.
Children and young people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend their school or setting. They should remain at home as much as possible. If your child is within this category, speak to your school who will continue to support you.
Children with EHCPs are within the criteria of “vulnerable groups”. Government guidance states they should have a place at their school or setting if the parent (or, if over 16, the young person) wishes it.
There may be instances where school places may not be available or only available part time. Schools and settings may struggle with staff availability and capacity or experience outbreaks of the virus. In these circumstances, schools will use their own risk assessments to prioritise children for places. This reflects Government guidance.
If you want your child to attend school and this is not currently available, contact your child’s school to talk it through with them. We'd also ask that you work with your school to facilitate remote learning wherever possible.
If you talk to your school but still have concerns that a place is not available for your child, contact your EHCP Coordinator or use our County EHCP number – details below. We may not be able to secure a full-time school provision for your child at your existing school or an alternative, especially if your child has very complex needs which require highly specialist input. But we'll do all we can to work through those issues with you and, where possible, make suitable alternative arrangements.
Bespoke packages / EOTAS
We asked providers of bespoke programmes or education other than at school or college to develop contingency plans in case of a further lockdown.
We expect children and young people in receipt of EOTAS packages to have those plans put into place so provision can continue. Where provision cannot continue in its full format, we've asked providers to talk to families about alternative delivery (such as in the home). If provision is not in place, contact us.
Therapies and specialist interventions from external staff
Government guidance says specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual.
NHS therapy providers and NCC staff (such as educational psychologists and specialist teachers) will continue to make use of remote technology to support children during this time and use risk assessments to inform any face to face delivery.
We worked with our commissioned private therapy providers to develop contingency plans in case of a second lockdown. We continue to fund private providers for the delivery of provision set out in EHCPs.
However, due to risk assessments the delivery may not be possible in the exact way as described in the EHCP. Providers will use remote technology and contingency plans and risk assessments to inform any face to face delivery. This may be within clinical or other settings rather than educational settings. If provision is not in place, contact us.
We're committed to ensuring children subject to a transition from one phase of education to another have an identified onward setting in place for September 2021. We'll continue to work to the February 15 and March 31 deadlines.
Schools or settings will usually undertake planned transition for some children. If schools and settings return to full face-to-face delivery from February half term, we hope this transition planning will be largely unaffected. It depends on the lockdown situation at that time.
EHCP county contact
Call 01603 679183. The phone line is open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 4pm on Friday.
We are having to make some major changes to our short breaks services due to limited availability and closures. Visit our short breaks coronavirus update page to get more information.
The government has published guidance to support education and childcare settings, special schools and other specialist settings.
Specialist Resource Bases (SRBs)
Specialist Resource Base (SRB) referrals and placements are currently working differently. Visit our Specialist Resource Bases page to find out more.