5:52 pm, Monday, 18th January 2021
Open letter to children and young people with SEND and their parents/ carers
Minister Ford has published an open letter to children and young people with SEND and their parents/ carers providing additional information on guidance and support available to them during the national lockdown. This covers attendance at education settings, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, testing in schools, and health services and respite.
Key Points for education include:
- Children and young people with an EHC plan should be allowed to continue attending their education setting if their parent wants them to (or, for post-16 provision, if the young person wants to attend), as they are classed as vulnerable for the purpose of determining which children and young people should be allowed to attend school or college during this period. The definition of vulnerable also includes others at the education setting and local authority’s discretion, including pupils and students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health.
- The legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of their pupils and students, including those supported through SEN Support, remains unchanged, whether they are attending school or college or at home for any period.
- where a child or young person has an EHC plan, it remains the duty of the local authority and health commissioning body to secure or arrange the provision specified in the plan under section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014.
- At this stage, we do not intend to use the powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify the section 42 duty, but we will keep this position under review based on the evidence.
- Education settings, working with other local partners where appropriate, should consider carefully the concerns of the parent or young person and work collaboratively with families so that, where appropriate, the child or young person can be supported to attend.
- If a parent wishes for their child to be absent or a young person chooses not to attend, they should inform the education setting of this so it can be properly recorded. Given the exceptional circumstances, the Departmental guidance is clear that it expects leaves of absences to be granted. Absence will not be penalised.
- Education settings should work with local authorities and health partners to ensure that remote education and support is put in place for any pupils or students who are not attending their education setting.
- Testing is voluntary, so no child or young person will be tested unless informed consent has been given by the appropriate person (usually the parent or young person). As such, no children or young people will be prevented from receiving face-to-face education if for any reason they are not tested.