The Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA) have updated their advice on how the Covid-19 measures will affect pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and it makes for quite interesting reading, with valuable advice for parents and schools alike
The headlines re-iterate that whilst schools have been issued with fresh advice for the re-opening schools actually the advice for SEND pupils remains as per the SEN and Disability Code of Practice 2015 and any changes in internal behaviour policies have to comply with the 2010 Equality Act, so far no changes.
However where the complications arise for both staff and students is the advice given for those of you like me, who were shielding during the first wave of the pandemic. The official advice from Government is that the 1996 Education Act still applies, in that regular attendance is expected, however a minor caveat that any students who are unable to attend school due to public health or clinical advice will not be penalised. However it is critical to add that Doctors advice is important here as the general expectation is that even for the most vulnerable currently school attendance is expected. It is unclear in the guidance as to the expectations if a family member or someone in the household are shielding themselves. IPSEA advice is that settings should authorise absence, but this is not in the Government guidance.
IPSEA advice continues “Where pupils need to self-isolate, or there is a local lockdown requiring pupils to remain at home, the school will offer immediate, high-quality remote education and will have planned for what this will be. Schools will need to offer paper materials where access to online learning is not available. For pupils with SEND, the guidance states that schools should work with parents where the pupil can’t access learning without adult support to develop “a broad and ambitious curriculum”. Therefore, schools might need to think of bespoke and creative ways to support children with SEND remotely. The duty to secure the provision in the EHC plan under s.42 Children & Families Act 2014 continues under the tier system.”
The issue with all of this is of course in relation to the catch up process. Children have missed approximately 6 months of school with the impact of this not really known. For pupils with SEND we expect this will be even more keenly felt. The National Tutoring Programme has been set up by the Department for Education and Castle Tutoring have made ourselves available to schools to support this as either an Academic Mentor for subject specific tuition or as a Tuition Partner for face to face, online or combination teaching. For pupils with SEND it is blatantly obvious that there will be a need for extra provision to support and in this instance extra EHC support may be required as per the CAFA 214 process.
IPSEA advice suggests that for those with an Educational Healthcare Plan (EHC), there are two options if a child chooses to remain at home for whatever reason; elective home education or education otherwise than that in a setting. For those without an EHC in place the only option available is elective home education.
Either way there is a potential crisis, which will be exacerbated should there be a second wave and either a localised or national lockdown, my view is that in this scenario the Government will resist closing schools again until the last possible moment, but that s purely conjecture. My advice for those with SEND is to read the guidance provided by IPSEA and remember Castle Tutoring is available to help support any catch up plans or home schooling needs.