The Department for Education have recently issued its guidance on reopening schools to all pupils in September 2020.
All children and young people, including those who are subject to an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) are expected to attend school from the beginning of the autumn term in September 2020. Attendance for pupils of compulsory school age is mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term unless a statutory reason applies. Shielding advice for all adults and children pauses on 1 August 2020, meaning that even the small number of pupils who remain on the shielded patient list, as well as those who have family members who were shielding, are expected to return to school.
On 29 June the Secretary of State for Education issued a Notice which amended the absolute duty of Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 so that from 1 July 2020 a local authority only had to use “reasonable endeavours” to discharge the duty. Two previous modification notices had been issued in May and June 2020. Government guidance published on 6 July 2020 stated that it was not envisaged that another such modification notice will be issued unless evidence suggests that further flexibility is required in order to respond to local outbreaks. On the expiry of the notice on 31 July 2020 the absolute duty on a local authority to secure or arrange provision in an EHCP is restored, and we expect provision specified in an EHCP, including that delivered by external professionals, to resume as normal.
Risk assessments should have been undertaken for all children with EHCPs during the period of school closures and to ascertain how children’s special educational needs could be best met during that period. Moving forward, schools should consider, in conjunction with parents what, if any particular requirements need to be put in place in order to facilitate as smooth a transition as possible at the start of term. This should be undertaken on an individual basis and schools may want to consider factors such as:
- children who may require a visit to school prior to returning;
- children who would benefit from particular strategies to assist with transition back to school for example the provision of social stories or other appropriate resources; and
- any other approaches that would normally be used to enable a child with SEN to return to full time school attendance following a period of absence.
School staff should support children to maintain distancing measures and not touch staff or their peers where possible, although the Department for Education’s guidance recognises this may not be possible for children with complex needs or for those who require close contact care. All children should be supported to understand and follow the appropriate hygiene measures in place in your school.