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School, childcare settings and colleges: guidance for key workers and parents of vulnerable children

The Government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and for schools and childcare settings (including early years settings, childminders and providers of childcare for school-age children) to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.

It is important to underline that schools, all childcare settings, colleges and other educational establishments, remain safe places for children. But the fewer children making the journey to school, and the fewer children in educational settings, the lower the risk that the virus can spread and infect vulnerable individuals in wider society.

Schools, and all childcare providers, are therefore being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home. Go to GOV.UK for more information for parents and carers.

Find guidance for early years and childcare closures on the GOV.UK website.

Visit our coronavirus updates for SEND Local Offer page for more information on how these services have been affected.

Am I a key worker?

The government’s definition of key workers is available from GOV.UK.

How do I know if my child is classed as vulnerable?

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those children and young people up to the age of 25 with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Those who have a social worker include children who have a child protection plan and those who are looked after by Norfolk Council Council Children’s Social Care. A child may also be deemed to be vulnerable if they have been assessed as being in need or otherwise meet the definition in section 17 of the Children Act 1989. See the full Government guidance for further advice.

Does my child have to attend school if they have an EHC plan?

Those with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with parents and the council, to decide whether they need to continue to be offered a school or college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home. There is more detail on this in the government guidance on vulnerable children and young people.

If you're a key worker and you need your child to remain at school, then please contact us to make alternative arrangements. 

The coronavirus outbreak has put considerable pressure on our education system. This means we have had to make significant changes to how we manage EHC plans. If your child currently has an EHC plan or you are applying for one you should read our update on temporary changes we have made to managing EHC plans.  

Which schools, colleges and childcare providers are open for families of key workers and vulnerable children?

While as many schools and childcare providers as possible will try to stay open for eligible pupils, this will not be possible for all settings. Our education team is coordinating and providing leadership for the pooling of resources in respect of schools. Our early years team is working with early years providers..

We are encouraging schools and early years settings to cluster together in districts and localities to help and support each other. As the coronavirus emergency continues some may close because they do not have enough staff to safely care for their children/students, or because they need to close temporarily for a deep clean. This means the place offered to your child may not be at their normal school but another school or provider as nearby as possible.

In these cases, schools will update our school closures page and will be in contact with parents to inform you directly where your child’s place will be provided. This may sometimes take a short while to organise. We have asked early years settings including nurseries, pre-schools and childminders to contact their parents directly with their arrangements and to notify parents if they must close.

See the Norfolk Community Directory for a list of childcare providers that are still open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

My closest school is closed but my child is eligible for a place. Will transport be provided to an alternative school?

Yes, we will provide transport to school for your child where it is needed.

What if I’m a key worker but my school or early years setting won’t provide a place? 

Schools will decide who meets the criteria using the DFE guidance. It is a local decision taken by the headteacher.

Equally managers of early years setting will make decisions based on the guidance.

Schools and early years settings may have to prioritise some families if they do not have enough staff to look after all the children at their school safely.

If’ your child’s school is closed completely and you are a key worker please call us on 0344 800 8020. 

My child is eligible for a free school meal, but the school is closed. Will food be provided?

Your child is still entitled to a meal and you will be provided with food or a voucher. Schools are making local arrangements for their parents, but there may be a delay in some cases.

It is likely that any food provided will be a packed lunch, rather than a hot meal.

My child goes to a special school, but it is closed. Will they get a place elsewhere?

This will depend on the individual child and their needs. Special schools are doing their very best to stay open but require very specialist staff and may not be able to care for your child safely.

Schools are making plans for their pupils, including carrying out home visits where that is best for the child. If you want to talk to someone about your child’s needs, please contact your school in the first instance.

If you need further support, please call us on 0344 800 8020. 

Closures of Specialist Resource Bases (SRBs) and referrals to SRBs

If your SRB or the SRB host school has closed, please discuss arrangements with your child’s home school. They are responsible for making arrangements for the children of key workers and/or any children whose needs cannot be managed safely at home.

If your normal SRB is closed and the host school remains open but your child cannot attend and either you are a key worker and/or it is not safe for them to be at home, then please contact the council on 0344 800 8020 and we will try and make alternative arrangements.

We are working to ensure as many schools as possible are kept open, but in some cases it may be necessary for children to attend an alternative setting to ensure that both they and school staff are kept safe.

All new SRB placements due to commence after Easter are deferred until further notice. Your child's place is reserved and you will receive a more detailed letter from us to further explain this.

New referrals are currently suspended. We will review the situation on an ongoing basis and will resume the process pending capacity to undertake visits and schools’ ability to reopen.

Visit our coronavirus updates for SEND Local Offer page for more information on how these services have been affected.

I am concerned my child doesn’t have access to enough learning from home materials

Schools are facing unprecedented challenges during this coronavirus emergency. We are speaking with headteachers daily and it is clear that they and their teaching staff are doing their very best in extremely challenging circumstances to produce home-learning materials, keep schools open for key workers and vulnerable children, and much more. Please be patient and understanding of your local school at this difficult time. The national curriculum has been suspended at this time while schools provide childcare so that key public services can function and for the safety of vulnerable children. While they are doing their utmost to provide as much teaching and learning material as possible, it is not expected that they can provide a full timetable of work.

Easter holidays

Children classed as vulnerable will be offered provision until the end of the school term on Wednesday 1 April.

During the normal school Easter holiday from Thursday 2 April until Friday 17 April access to schools and early years settings will be for children of key workers only. Vulnerable children will be on holiday from school in the normal way. Provision for vulnerable youngsters will re-start at beginning of the summer term on Monday 20 April.

Full Government guidance

The Department for Education has produced a range of guidance documents.

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