We recognise these are difficult times for everyone. The situation is rapidly changing and the Government and Suffolk County Council will provide further updates and guidance. On this page we will add any relevant updates and try to answer your questions about COVID-19 and what it means for your child's education.
Department for Education guidance for the full opening: Special schools and other specialist settings (updated 14th January 2021)
FAQ's for parents and carers (issue 5, January 2021 - from Inclusion and SEND services Suffolk)
School Attendance disapplication notice Education Act 1996 (7th January to 6th February 2021)
Department for Education Actions for schools (updated 7th January 2021)
Education Secretary outlines plans to support young people (6th January 2021)
Government announcement about third national lockdown (4th January 2021)
Department for Education Schools and childcare settings guidance - return in January 2021 (updated 30th December 2020)
Read more about the testing programme (starting with secondary schools and colleges and including special schools and alternative provision)
The government announced a third national lockdown to begin on 5th January 2021 with schools and colleges (except for special schools and alternative provision) to offer on-site education only to vulnerable children and young people and those of critical workers, at least until half-term in February when this will re reviewed.
If you believe your child is vulnerable and would benefit to on-site education talk to school as soon as possible.
GCSE and A level exams due to take place in the summer have been cancelled and the government are working with Ofqual to consider alternative arrangements.
BTEC's due to take place in January currently are still allowed to go ahead but at the setting's discretion.
As of 6th January there have been no relaxations of the statutory duties within the Children and Families Act or EHC timescales.
Will my child continue to receive the specialist support they need?
The guidance from the Department for Education says:
'Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual. They, as well as supply teachers, peripatetic teachers or other temporary staff can move between settings. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. Such specialists will be aware of the PPE most appropriate for their role. '
'Where a pupil has provision specified within their EHC plan, it remains the duty of the local authority and any health bodies to secure or arrange the delivery of this in the setting that the plan names. However, there may be times when it becomes very difficult to do so, for example, if they are self-isolating. In this situation, decisions on how provision can be delivered should be informed by relevant considerations including, for example, the types of services that the pupil can access remotely, such as online teaching and remote sessions with different types of therapists. These decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis, avoiding a one size fits all approach.'
We will update this page as more news emerges.
Suffolk County Council are updating their information regularly:
The Department for Education is expecting vulnerable children and those of critical workers to return to on-site education, with all other pupils and students to access remote learning. Special schools and alternative provision will also remain open for on-site provision.
A small number of children may have symptoms; have a positive test result; be self-isolating; or are at high-risk (extremely clinically vulnerable) due to a medical condition.
For children in the ‘moderate risk’ (clinically vulnerable) the government guidance says you should follow medical advice.
If your child is not able to attend because they are following specialist medical or public health advice you will not be penalised.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child or young person returning to on-site education talk to school in the first instance.
New - January 2021
Suffolk County Council have said they will support any school leaders who make a decision not to open on 4th January. (though this statement was published ahead of the third lockdown announcement)
They encourage parents with concerns about safety of the return to discuss this with their child's school.
They also say they do not expect sanctions for non-attendance in the current circumstances.
The government has asked local authorities to develop a plan to manage any local rise in numbers infected. Suffolk have developed a local outbreak plan for further waves - page 29 gives an overview of schools and settings.
Government guidance (updated 31st December 2020) says:
Nurseries, childminders, schools and collegeswill contact their local health protection team if they:
- have 2 or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) among pupils or staff within 14 days
- see an increase in children or staff absence rates due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The local health protection team will advise what action is required. Usually, closure will not be necessary, but some groups may need to self-isolate.
If an outbreak in a school or college is confirmed, a mobile testing unit may be dispatched. They will test everyone who may have been in contact with the person who has tested positive. Testing will first focus on the person’s class, followed by their year group, then the whole school or college, if necessary.
If your local area sees a spike in infection rates that results in localised community spread, the government will decide what actions need to be taken.
Your child’s school or college should provide remote education if:
- groups of pupils need to self-isolate
- a larger restriction of attendance at school or college is needed
See our latest information section 'Back to school' for support ideas, resources and links to further information.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 is in force for up to two years and allows the Secretary of State to issue a notice to temporarily 'disapply' (relax or remove) some duties around EHC plans.
The Government announced (30th April) some temporary amendments to the SEND regulations around legal duties and timescales for EHC needs assessments and plans:
- A modification notice was issued by the Secretary of State to temporarily relax the duty to secure provision (section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014) for the period 1st to 31st May 2020
- A further modification notice to extend the relaxation of this duty until 30th June 2020
- A third modification notice to extend the relaxation of this duty until 31st July 2020. No further notice has been issued and all duties now revert to current law.
- The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 temporarily amends some Regulations that specify legal timescales applying to local authorities and health providers, mainly around timescales relating to EHC needs assessments and plans. This can only be used in circumstances relating to 'to the transmission or incidence of coronavirus.' These Regulations only apply from 1st May to 25 September 2020.
The Department for Education expects Local authorities, health services and the other bodies involved in the processes relating to EHC needs assessments and plans to communicate regularly with the families of those children and young people with EHC plans, who are being assessed for plans or who apply for an EHC needs assessment.
Where circumstances relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus prevents provision being made or a timescale relating to an EHC plan or needs assessment, they need to let you know:
- what provision will be made for your child or young person and the reason for any difference from the special educational and health provision specified in the EHC plan
- what decision or process has been delayed relating to your EHC needs assessment/plan
|Process||Duty||Temporarily changed to||Dates applied|
|Providing Special, Educational Provision and health provision in a plan||Duty to secure provision (s42 of the C&FA 2014)||
Reasonable endeavoursNote: This means that LA’s/health bodies must consider for each child and young person with an EHC plan what they can reasonably provide in the circumstances, during the notice period.
|1st May to 31st July 2020|
Timescales for EHC plans e.g:
Requests for EHC needs assessment
Duty of a body to provide information within six weeks
Decisions about whether to issue a plan.
Preparation and issue of plans
Annual Review of plans
Mediation Process (issuing certificates, arranging mediation within 30 days)
Moving to a different local authority area
(4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22 and various mediation timescales within 34 to 39)
As soon as reasonably practicableNote: Local authorities must not apply blanket approaches in relation to EHC needs assessments or plans, processes and decision-making. They can use these modifications on a case-by-case basis.
1st May to 25th September 2020Note: if the timescale/deadline was before 1st May 2020 the amendments cannot be applied as they were not in force.
|Monitoring and reviewing direct payments in relation to a personal budget in an EHC plan||SEND Personal Budget Regulations 2014||As soon as reasonably practicable||1st May to 25th September 2020|
Non-binding recommendations from the SEND Tribunal about Health and Social care
|SEND Tribunal Regulations 2017||As soon as reasonably practicable||1st May to 25th September 2020|
School/setting named in a plan
Duty to admit (s43 of the C&FA 2014)
No change to this section of the Act currently
If a school or college named is currently closed they must add the child to the school roll and treat them in the same way as other pupils or students on rollWhile settings may remain closed to pupils or students, they are expected to make arrangements that enable them to continue to respond to ‘consultations’ about a future place (where the local authority sends them a draft EHC plan for their response)
|No changes applied to section of Act currently|
|Reviews and re-assessments||Duty to carry out (s44 of the C&FA 2014)||
No change to this section of the Act currently
There have been some amendments to the SEND Regulations around timescales for Annual Review (see above)
|No changes applied to section of Act currently|
Details of the amendments to SEND Regulations (updated 29th May 2020)
Read the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Schedule 17 relates to the relaxation of provision)
If you have an appeal in progress, the current position is that this will still go ahead but will most likely be held remotely. Many appeals over recent months have been heard using telephone or video links.
If you wish to delay your appeal due to the pandemic, perhaps you are finding it difficult to gather evidence for example, you could request a postponement by using the 'request for changes' form.
You can still make a new appeal. The SEND Tribunal service have said they will be prioritising 'phase-transfer' appeals. A 'phase transfer' is when a child or young person is due to move up to the next phase of their education in September (primary to secondary, secondary to post-16 etc).
Hungry Little Minds (early years)
BBC Bitesize (primary, secondary and post-16)
The Oak National Academy (by Teachers)
Chatterpack (primary and secondary)
Twinkl - free learning packs for parents (primary)
www.educationquizzes.com (primary and secondary)
www.teachitprimary.co.uk (primary) Free packs for a limited period
- Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust - 'First Response' mental health helpline
- Anxiety UK - 'Coronanxiety' support and resources
- Children's Commissioner 'Children's guide to Coronavirus'
- Healthy Suffolk COVID hub
- Parent carer support packs from Suffolk Parent Carer Network
- National Autistic Society – guidance and helpline for parents’, young people and staff:
- Mencap - Easy Read guide to Coronavirus (opens PDF)
- Place2Be – supporting children through the crisis who may be especially vulnerable
- Suffolk MIND - COVID-19 and helpful resources
- Young Minds - Talking to your child about Coronavirus and 10 tips from their Parents Helpline to support family wellbeing
- Young Minds - What to do if you're anxious about the virus
- Carers UK - Guidance for carers
- 'Covibook' – an interactive resource designed to support and reassure children aged 7 and under, designed to help children explain and draw the emotions that they might be experiencing during the pandemic:
- Public Health England easy read version of their Advice on the coronavirus for places of education.
- Recovery College - online resource 'Coping with the pandemic'
- Headspace 'Weathering the storm together' for parents and educators
General support and advice for young people around mental health issues:
ChatHealth - young people 11-19 can text a school nurse on 07507 333356 (for advice on a range of issues including; sexual health, drugs, self-harm, bullying)
4YP - local charity organisation supporting young people 12-25 with social, emotional and physical health and wellbeing in Suffolk (drop-ins and counselling)
Kooth - online counselling and emotional wellbeing support service for young people in Suffolk aged 11 to 18
Moodwise - digital tools and resources to support young people's emotional wellbeing
Young Minds - young people in crisis can text: YM to 85258
Psychology and therapeutic services and the specialist education services - COVID updates and resources
Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families - COVID-19 support resources