Sheffield City Council has confirmed that schools and childcare settings can begin to open more widely from Monday 15 June. Sheffield had initially decided to delay wider opening on the advice of Greg Fell, Sheffield’s Director of Public Health.
Greg Fell changed his advice on 10 June, and you can read his statement here. Cllr Abtisam Mohamed has written a letter to parents advising that each school and childcare setting will be making their own decisions about how many children they can take back, and will be working at their own pace.
We asked Andrew Jones, Sheffield’s Director of Education and Skills, what parents of children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) should expect from schools. He said: “Schools have been advised to contact all children with SEN on a regular basis throughout lockdown, so we would expect that they talk to parents about what school will be like for children as they return. This should include children with an Education Health and Care (EHC) Plan and those at SEN Support.”
“All parents will understandably want to know how school will be different, and so schools are likely to talk through their risk assessment and how support that is normally in place will be different, including provision in EHC plans. We know that many things will change for children, but SENCOs across the city have been working hard to ensure that children are supported to manage as they return to school. If parents are concerned, they should contact their school about what is and is not going to be in place.’’
The government target for all primary school children to return to school before the summer holidays has been scrapped.
We have summarised the latest government guidance in relation to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) below.
Mainstream schools and colleges are expected to welcome back children in:
- Nursery, Reception, Y1 and Y6, from week commencing 1 June at the earliest
- Y10 and Y12 for some face-to-face contact, from week commencing 15 June at the earliest
Special schools are expected to welcome back as many children as can safely be catered for in their setting. They should not focus on specific year groups, but prioritise children approaching key transition points, and those who most need face-to-face teaching to support their life chances and development.
Integrated Resources (IRs) in Sheffield have taken the same approach as special schools. The Sheffield Partnership of special schools and integrated resources has written a letter to parents to outline their common approach. These local arrangements differ from the government guidance, which states that IRs should follow the same approach as mainstream schools.
Children with EHC plans in mainstream schools who are in the priority groups should return to school, unless their risk assessment shows that they are safer at home. Government guidance says that local authorities and schools should consider whether it is now safe to bring back children with EHC plans, whatever year group they are in.
Risk assessments for vulnerable children (including those with EHC plans) should be kept under review and maintained for as long as a child remains at home (schools and local authorities can also decide to maintain them after a child has returned to school). When updating risk assessments, local authorities and schools should consider a number of factors, including:
- the potential health risks to the child from coronavirus, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions
- the risk to the child if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered
- the ability of parents to meet the child’s health and care needs at home, bearing in mind their access to respite and short breaks, loss of childcare provided by extended family, and the impact of caring on parents’ health
- if the child has challenging behaviour, any risk to siblings or family members
Parents should be involved in the risk assessment, and the views of the child should be incorporated as well.
If it is safer for the child to be at home, local authorities, schools and parents should consider whether moving equipment or services into a child or young person’s home would enable them to be supported there – for example, sensory equipment, phone support for parents in delivering interventions, online sessions with therapists, or in-person support. Schools and local authorities need to ensure that the family understands the support plan that is in place for them, and that parents are aware of the education, health and care services available to them at home.
Some important points to bear in mind:
- Children who are shielding, or who live with somebody who is shielding, will not be expected to attend school.
- Parents who decide to keep their children at home will not be fined for non-attendance.