• SEN Legal

School attendance and First-Tier Tribunal Timetables

Updated: Mar 27

Who is to attend school today (23rd March 2020):

Today is going to be difficult for everyone involved in the education system. There's already a lot of uncertainty about which children should be attending school today and where they should be going.

Headlines on attendance at school from recent guidance issued over the weekend:

  • There is no obligation on ‘key workers’ to send children who are not vulnerable to school if they can keep them safe at home (without childcare assistance from vulnerable adults)

  • All schools are being asked to stay open in a limited capacity if possible at least for today; eligible children to attend their normal school today for directions which may include redirection to another setting


The vulnerable children guidance states that children with EHC plans will be risk-assessed to see if their needs have to be met at school or can be met at home. There has been no published guidance so far on how this will work in practice. However, the government has said that eligible children should attend their school today as usual, which continues to apply to children with EHC plans. Anyone who is uncertain about what their child should be doing today should seek legal advice tailored to their situation. Our Solicitors are turning around all calls within 48 hours, if you call our friendly team on 01284 723952 or email customerservices@senlegal.co.uk we can get something arranged for you.

Schools:

There is also further guidance aimed at schools on temporary closing – it contains guidance about the respective responsibilities of LAs and schools, coordinated provision across your local area, and funding. This is important for schools who have closed already, who have vulnerable children (children with EHCPs) or where a parent is a key worker as the government guidance confirms: We would like all schools to open on a limited basis on Monday 23 March to support parents to understand next steps. Once schools have assessed their demand and capacity, any schools experiencing high demand should liaise with their local authority and communicate with parents regarding whether their child needs to attend an alternative setting.

Schools cannot make a blanket decision to close. They must help parents work through this for those two categories. If you are a school, headteacher, or governors and need guidance through this process, again our Solicitors are turning around all calls within 48 hours, if you call our friendly team on 01284 723952 or email customerservices@senlegal.co.uk we can get something arranged for you.

Key links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-vulnerable-children-and-young-people?utm_source=

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-school-closures/guidance-for-schools-about-temporarily-closing

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-isolation-for-residential-educational-settings

Important to note re new guidance issued over the weekend:

There have been three important guidance documents issued over the weekend, one for vulnerable children (re EHCPs) one for schools re temporary closures and one for residential settings. The first two of these somewhat contradict likely due to being rushed through and may change again this week. As a result we are seeing people on social media advising parents of vulnerable children they must stay at home if the school tell them to do so, this is incorrect.

Government guidance is being issued daily, and the situation is fast paced. The Coronavirus Bill may have amendments before it is finalised (we should know about this today).

We’d advise anybody reading the various guidance documents that unless you are following every development please hold off trying to advise parents re EHCPs and whether they can send their child to school. We are seeing lots of contradictory/incorrect advice being shared as a result of the vulnerable children guidance which is unhelpful to parents at an already difficult time. We have no doubt these ‘advisors’ mean well but incorrect advice could have damaging consequences. Think before you advise and instead signpost parents to those specialist in the field who can duly discuss their case with them.


Change to First-tier Tribunal Appeal Timetable:

It is important to note that from the FTT guidance re video/telephone hearings last week, all new SENDT Appeals EXCEPT those which are phase transfer, will be registered on a 20 week timetable. Phase transfer appeals will continue to be registered on 12-14 week timetable.

This has needed to be done for such a long time to clear the huge backlog and stop the amount of vacations we were seeing, before this pandemic even began.

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