COVID-19

 

We recognise these are difficult times for everyone. The situation is changeable 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.

Latest news

Helpline for parents and pupils around returning to education – from Suffolk County Council Inclusion Service

A helpline will be running from 23 August through to the end of September to respond to queries and concerns around the return to school for child(ren). 

If you have any questions or concerns the number to ring will be 0345 606 6172. The line will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.

Open ministerial letter about the return to school (2nd September 2020)

Department for education guide following exam results: 'Your results, what next' for information about options

Qualification appeal process

FAQ's for parents and carers (Issue 2, 7th August 2020 - from Inclusion and SEND services Suffolk)

Government guidance for the full opening of schools (updated 7th August 2020)

Open ministerial letter about the return to education (21st July 2020)

Information for schools on how to use the catch-up premium and the National Tutoring Programme (20th July 2020)

Suffolk Principles and Planning Support (PDF) - From Suffolk County Council to support school and setting leaders in preparing; finalising and using risk assessments to inform planning to respond to government information and ambition about a return to school from 1st June (updated 8th June 2020)

Risk assessment/checklist (Word template) - From Suffolk County Council to support schools in their decision-making process with regards to their ability to facilitate the wider opening of schools as suggested by Central Government. (Updated 8th June 2020)

Archived news

 


Background

The UK Government announced the closure of schools (including Independent schools) in England from 20 March 2020 until further notice.

During this time vulnerable children and children of 'critical workers' were able to continue attending.

From 1st June schools in England began to welcome children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6.. From 15th June the government encouraged the return of year 10 and 12 students.

Full reopening of schools

Schools and colleges have been busy preparing for the safe return to education from September. Some have made changes such as staggered starts or with the flow of students around the corridors. You can talk to your child's own setting to find out which changes to expect.

Watch our video which aims to help parents and carers understand what to expect  generally about the return to education:

 

Department for Education advice:

Department for Education guidance on the full opening of schools (updated 7th August 2020)

What parents and carers need to know about schools, colleges and other settings during the coronavirus outbreak (updated 21st August 2020)

Implementing protective measures in childcare and education settings (reopening of schools) (updated 1st June 2020)

Cancelled Exams

SATs, GCSEs, AS and A level exams that were due to take place Summer 2020 were cancelled. Guidance was issued to schools around how to grade students, and there was due to be a moderation process which in the end was scrapped and students were awarded their predicted grades.

Read the government guide 'Your results, what next' for information about options including the appeal process

The Department for Education is expecting children to return from September 2020. 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.

Read the NHS guidance about these two levels of risk (high or moderate) 

If a child is not able to attend because they are following specialist medical or public health advice the parent will not be penalised.

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 a second wave - page 29 gives an overview of schools an settings.

View the Suffolk Covid-19 outbreak plan

Government guidance (updated 21st August) 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.

From 25 September the temporary regulations to relax timescales around EHC processes expire and normal statutory timescales come back into force.

 

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
Overview of the temporary relaxation of duties
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 endeavours

Note: 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

SEND Regulations 2014

(4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22 and various mediation timescales within 34 to 39)

As soon as reasonably practicable

Note: 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 2020

Note: 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

Note:

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 roll

While 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

Note:

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 Secretary of State notice 1st May 2020

Read more about why the government decided to issue the latest notice of temporary changes to the law

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Read the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Schedule 17 relates to the relaxation of provision)

Read the FAQ's from The Children's Legal Centre

If you have an appeal in progress, the current position is that this will still go ahead but will most likely be held remotely. Some appeals have already been heard using telephone or video links.

If you wish to delay your appeal due to the crisis, 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).

Read the advice about Tribunals planning and preparation

Read the information from the government about appeals using telephone or video links

Read the information from IPSEA about COVID-19 and appeals

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

Suffolk MIND

Young Minds - young people in crisis can text: YM to 85258