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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

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.

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.