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Returning to school through this phase of COVID-19.

By Rebecca De Winter, Trainee Solicitor at SEN Legal

As many of you will have seen, the Government announced that there would be a phased re-opening of schools from the 1st June 2020. A further announcement was made on the 15th June 2020 giving heads and school leaders the ability to invite back additional children before the summer, if they are able and feel ready to do so within the existing guidance.

It may be that due to your child having an EHC Plan, and therefore being classed as vulnerable, they have continued to attend schooling in some form throughout this period. For others, it could be that your child now faces the daunting prospect of returning to school full time, depending on their age, the setting they attend, and your own preferences.

If your child attends a Special School, Special Post-16 Institution or a Hospital School, please be aware that the phased return of pupils will not be by year group, but with a focus on prioritising attendance based on key transitions and the impact on life chances and development.

Specialist settings should work with Local Authorities and families to ensure that decisions about attendance are informed by existing risk assessments for their children and young people, which should be kept up to date.

Children within all other settings returned as set out by the Government. This comprises of nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 full time pupils in primary schools. Secondary schools can now welcome back pupils in Year 10 and Year 12 and colleges will welcome back 16-19 students, as long as only a quarter of students are attending at any one time.

The government has chosen Year 6 pupils to return to school full time, amongst others, for a very specific reason. The reasoning behind this decision is that those children will soon be undergoing a key transition in their education, the move from Primary School to Secondary School.

The transition from Primary School to Secondary School is daunting for any child, but for a child with Special Educational needs this transition can be devastating on their education and emotional wellbeing if it is not managed correctly. For many families, their children will be returning to year 6 without adequate provision in place currently or for the transition, and no suitable Secondary School to attend.

Regulation 18 of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 sets out that the Local Authority must undertake a review of and amend an EHC Plan for pupils’ transitioning from early years education to school, infant to junior, primary to middle or middle to secondary, primary to secondary school by 15th February 2020. For Pupils, transferring from secondary to a post 16 institution, the deadline is 31st March. These deadlines are still in place, despite subsequent changes to legislation as a result of COVID- 19. If your Local Authority have failed to do this, they can be challenged.

If your child is returning to school and you are unhappy with the provision they are getting, will get in Secondary School or the Local Authority’s choice of secondary school, you need to take swift action to Appeal the current decision and resolve these issues as soon as possible. Sadly, in the current climate, there has been a 300% increase in the Appeals being registered with the SEND Tribunal, which means that it is unlikely that any Appeal would conclude before September 2020. However, in education matters, time is of the essence, and the sooner inappropriate provision is addressed, the better.

We have also spoken to many parents who have noticed additional needs in their child since home schooling began. Regardless of if your child is due to return to school imminently or not, these additional needs may require additional support when they do return to school. If you have noticed additional needs during lock down, now would be an ideal time to seek to include those needs, and additional support required by those needs, into their EHC Plan.

If you are concerned about your child’s return to school, transition to secondary school or additional needs please do not hesitate to contact us at – we can help.

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