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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Special Educational Needs and Disabilities update for parents

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Special Educational Needs and Disabilities update for parents

Our official statement on how we're working and what you can expect while we use our best endeavours to manage the usual SEN practices

Education Health and Care Plans (EHC Plan)

During the coming weeks, the impact of coronavirus, including the continued closure of schools and colleges and the need of health and social care colleagues to focus their efforts on the delivery of frontline services, will affect how well we can process EHC needs assessments.

The SEND team are all working remotely from their homes and have laptops and headsets that enable them to deal with emails and answer telephone calls.

This update sets out how we are working and what you can expect while we use our best endeavours to manage the usual SEN practices and keep everything as normal as possible, subject to any guidance issued by the DfE.

To contact the SEND Team please email SEN@bristol.gov.uk or telephone 0117 922 3700.

Requests for Statutory Assessments

Schools, colleges and parents are still able to request a statutory assessment.

The LA should consider evidence that an EHCNA is necessary per the Code of Practice 9.14, and because of school closure and absence of other professionals due to coronavirus this may be difficult to obtain in the normal way. If this is the case it may take longer to make the decision than normal. If so, those requesting the assessment will be informed.

If professionals are already involved with the child or young person, and the education provider has been implementing the advice they have provided, it is likely that there will be evidence to support a full assessment of need. We will then be able to describe any needs and provision.

In some cases, there may not be any professional evidence of needs yet. This will make it more difficult, as schools and colleges are closed and so professionals will not be able to see your child to assess them in the usual way. If this is the case it may take longer to make the decision than normal. If so, those requesting the assessment will be informed.

Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCNA)

When we decide that we need to complete a statutory assessment, we usually ask a range of people (like teachers, educational psychologists, and health professionals) for advice. This is becoming more difficult because:

  • health and social care staff have been asked to work in front line services instead of their usual role
  • it is likely that staff and other professionals may not be available – they may be sick, self-isolating or caring for sick family
  • educational psychologists, Bristol Autism Team and Sensory Support Service are not able to see and assess children and young people in their education settings in the usual way
  • the exceptional personal circumstances of children and young people and /or their families may give rise to a delay, for example unable to attend an appointment because of illness and also school closures

Our Education Psychology Service, Bristol Autism Team and Sensory Support Service are contacting parents awaiting an EHC NA by phone or email to make best endeavours to complete as many EHCNA as possible, using video conferencing, phone, text, email etc.

Where the SEND Team already has the information required to complete the needs assessment, work is continuing to progress cases to panel. Panels will continue to meet via virtual technology and the decision whether to issue an EHC Plan will be made and communicated to parents by telephone and email.

Issuing EHC Plans

It will be harder for us to consult with schools and colleges to name in an EHC Plan because of school and college closures and less teachers being available.

Schools and colleges will still be asked to use their best endeavours to respond to consultations within 15 days.

Where we have completed an assessment and we are due to issue a final EHC Plan, but unable to consult education settings, we may have to state the school type but name the current school or college for now. This will mean that the child or young person will still be supported by that school or college during the coronavirus crisis.

In this situation an urgent review will be called as soon as possible following the reopening of schools.

EHC Plan reviews

As fewer children are attending schools and schools and colleges are closed or partially closed, annual reviews that are due during this time will be affected.

The SEND Team are working together with schools and education settings to ensure that reviews can take place wherever possible, for example where it is appropriate and possible to communicate via virtual technology (ensuring appropriate data protection and other safeguards are in place).

Schools have been advised as follows:

  • Continue to offer annual review meetings to parents.
  • Meetings already arranged should go ahead if at all possible e.g. using virtual technology. The need to comply with government guidance on social distancing means that the SEND team and other professionals are unlikely to be available to come into schools for these meetings, but could take part in a video or other virtual meeting.
  • If schools cannot arrange for a way of keeping these meetings in the diary, they should discuss this with parents, and then the email the SEN team at SEN@bristol.gov.uk.

If a review is essential and fundamental to the young person’s education at this time, then the following needs to be considered:

  • This may be possible but be aware that health and care staff will be redirected to our most vulnerable in these times.
  • EP assessments would need to be done remotely making some information impossible to collect, such as standardised individual assessments.

Once a review has been undertaken the education setting should submit the report as normal to the SEND team within 2 weeks of the meeting.

The SEND team response will be determined by the information and evidence provided. If there is no evidence to suggest any changes then it is likely that the response will be to maintain the plan.

Mediation

Global mediation is still providing services where parents request this, however this is likely to be provided via virtual technology.

Tribunals

Tribunals are continuing at present. We are liaising with Tribunal services to ascertain the position regarding Tribunals going forward and will update our information as soon as we can.

Services and Support for children and young people with SEND

Educational Psychology Team

Our Educational Psychologists are working from home and they will be:

  • keeping in contact with SENDCos across Bristol, and providing advice on support and wellbeing
  • contacting parents and young people who are going through the EHC NA process to talk about what needs to be done
  • writing reports for EHC NAs whenever this is feasible within current constraints

Bristol Autism Team

The BAT Education Hub have been contacting all SENDCos for settings where we have children we are supporting, to find out which of our pupils are attending and to offer advice.

The team have compiled some helpful resources and information for parents who are at home with their autistic children/young people, and this is available on the Local Offer website.

We are contacting parents in person for those autistic children/young people who fall into one of these categories:

  • are in the process of a Statutory Education Health Care Needs Assessment
  • are at the draft EHCP stage
  • have been accessing alternative learning provision or hospital education
  • are awaiting a specialist placement

Families can email autismfamilycourses@bristol.gov.uk or telephone 073911398326 if they are currently attending one of our family courses or were due to attend one of the following courses in the next two months:

  • Early Bird
  • Cygnets
  • Teenage Life
  • One day post diagnosis course
  • One day course run by Andrew Powell

For families who are part of the Bristol Autism Project, please email BAP@bristol.gov.uk for support and advice, or contact FACE directly for details of the Easter Activities Programme for in the Home on info@facefilton.org.uk

Please do look through our pack of information and resources. If you need further help, please contact either your direct BAT Link or email Bristol.autism.hotline@bristol.gov.uk and we will do our best to offer you advice and support by email or phone.

Sensory Support Service

Funding applications for equipment such as radio aids

It is unlikely that the suppliers will be able to provide equipment at this time. The application will be followed up once suppliers are able to provide a service. If the equipment is in transit, the school will hold the equipment until it is required and can be set up by specialists from the Sensory Support Service.

Accessing the Sensory Support Service

You can contact the service at sensorysupportservice@bristol.gov.uk and the usual phone numbers 0117 9038441 / 2 / 3.

Support from the Sensory Support Service

The service can support families, educational settings and young people by answering queries; giving advice and sign posting to other agencies/information. Please see contacts above.

For some children and young people with a high level of need (usually seen by a specialist teacher every week) there will some remote support provided to be agreed with family / setting if they are attending.

Accessing the habilitation service for CYP with visual impairment

The habilitation service can be accessed via the Sensory Support Service. Guide Dogs, our provider is currently unable to carry out face to face visits. They will be able to provide support, information and advice remotely.

Educational Provision for Pupils with EHCPs

Early years settings, schools, colleges and support staff are working extremely hard to respond and adapt to the unprecedented and ever changing situation, and we're all working together and making best endeavours to meet every child’s needs.

The government guidance issued on Sunday 22 March stated that all pupils with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with the local authority (LA) and parents, 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.

The government continue to emphasise that wherever possible children and young people should remain at home during this time in order to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

All coronavirus bulletins for schools and education settings are now available on the government website.