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

Billion pound Covid catch-up plan to tackle impact of lost teaching time (19th June 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)

Additional funding announced to support young people leaving alternative provision (4th June 2020)

What parents and carers need to know about schools, colleges and other settings during the coronavirus outbreak (updated 30th June 2020)

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

Temporary changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments due to coronavirus (updated 29th June 2020 - extends to 31st July 2020)

Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening (updated 18th June 2020)

Letter to parents and carers about the phased reopening of schools  (PDF) - from Adrian Orr, Assistant Director - Education & Learning (Suffolk Children and Young People's Services) (21st May 2020)

Government guidance 'Supporting your children's education during coronavirus (COVID-19)' (updated 21st May 2020)

Archived news

 


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' have still been able to attend and this will continue. 

From 1st June schools in England will begin to reopen in phases. The first phase is for children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 to be encouraged back to school. From 15th June it is expected the government will be encouraging the return of year 10 and 12 students.

The government previously annouced they would like to bring all primary year groups back to school for at least a month before the summer holidays, but they have since said this is no longer an expectation.

Schools will only welcome back additional year groups if the most up-to-date assessment of the risk posed by the virus indicates it is appropriate to have larger numbers of children within the school.

Contact your child's school for more information about their plans for the phased return of all pupils.

The government have said parents will not be penalised in this period for choosing not to send their child back to school.

Department for Education advice:

Guidance for parents about the reopening of schools (updated 1st June 2020)

What parents and carers need to know about schools, colleges and other settings during the coronavirus outbreak (updated 1st June 2020)

Actions for further education settings during the coronavirus outbreak (updated 29th May 2020)

Coronavirus guidance for schools and other educational settings (updated 24th May 2020)

Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening (26th May 2020)

'Supporting your children's education during coronavirus (COVID-19)' (updated 21st May 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 have been cancelled. Guidance has been issued to schools around how to grade students, and the moderation process - read below.

A level students will get their results 13th August, and GCSE students on the 20th August. These are the original published dates.

Read the Government Frequently Asked Questions about the cancellation of exams

Ofqual information and guidance for schools, students and parents about how 2020 qualifications will be graded (3 April 2020)

Getting ready for the wider opening of schools:

Schools and Academy Trusts are working together and following guidance to prepare to implement protective measures for the phased return of children.

If you have any specific questions or concerns about your child's return to school you should let school know as soon as possible. 

Suffolk guidance:

For parents about schools reopening

Letter to parents and carers about the phased reopening of schools (PDF)- from Adrian Orr, Assistant Director - Education & Learning (Suffolk Children and Young People's Services) (21st May 2020)

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 - 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)

Specialist/SEND Education services:

The update from Suffolk (20 March 2020) includes information about:

  • School offer for children with EHC plans and those in special schools
  • Education Outreach services (eg. Dyslexia Outreach Team; County Inclusion Support Service; Multi-agency assessment programme etc)
  • EHC needs assessment process
  • Specialist admissions panel & decisions
  • Short break offer

Read the full Suffolk SEND update (COVID-19)

County Inclusion Support Services (CISS) are supporting parents during these unprecedented times:

Providing virtual advice and guidance for children with communication and/or social, emotional and mental health needs.
Parents can call: 01473 264717 or email: cissparentsupport@suffolk.gov.uk

Please note that this telephone line will only be answered between the hours of 9am and 3pm and advice will not be given during the call, but questions passed on which will then be answered by the most relevant CISS member of staff.

Read the message from Specialist and the Psychology & Therapeutic Services (26 March 2020)

Keyworkers/Vulnerable children

Suffolk have a helpline for Key Worker parents, (or for parents with a child classed as vulnerable) to assist them if their usual school is not open. Parents are able to call this line and the local authority will liaise with schools to find them a place: 

Call 01473 263985

The Department for Education is expecting children to return when their school reopens for their year group, unless they are self-isolating or 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) 

However, the government have said parents will not be penalised in this period for choosing not to send their child back to school.

Local authorities will work with schools to keep them open, but this might not always be possible, for example if it's unsafe for staff or pupils to do so. If your child needs to go to school but their own school is closed, resources will be pooled on a local level and they may be offered a place in another school.

If your child's school is closed, or that missing out on a specific provision in their EHC plan is a risk to their health, wellbeing or safety, contact the Family Services Team at the local authority to discuss what could be put in place: Family Services Team contact information (opens PDF)

We have never been in this position of emerging from a lockdown situation but there are some tried and tested strategies for transition – following the long summer break for example.

The most important thing is to find out from your child whether they are worried about going back and what questions they have about their return to school. Your calming responses will help reassure them.

Explain to your child that things are going to be different for a while. Schools are letting parents know what adjustments are being made so this is a good starting point.

Talk to school to see if there have been any changes to their teachers/teaching assistants so you can prepare them before they go back.

You can enquire about any changes to the school day, such as assemblies, what will be different at break and lunch times or with the class layout. Some children may benefit from seeing a pictures of layout changes to a classroom or other areas of the school before their first day back.

You can also ask if there are any changes to the support your child usually receives. If your child has any specialist services involved, you may be able to contact them for their advice too.

See also: The Psychology and Therapeutic Service and Specialist Education Services resources

What about the provision in their EHC plan?

The government introduced some new and amended legislation due to coronavirus. This means that for a temporary period there is some relaxation of duties to secure provision, and also around some of the timescales relating to EHC needs assessments and plans - but only if related to coronavirus.

It may mean that your child does not receive some of the special educational or health provision outlined in their plan or that a deadline is extended, but the local authority should let you know if this is the case.

Decisions must be taken on an individual basis and 'blanket' policies cannot be applied.You can talk to your Family Services Coordinator at the local authority about any temporary changes to your child's provision.

You can read more about these changes in the next dropdown ‘What are the changes to legislation around EHC plans?’


Related information

Transition tips

School anxiety

Working with school

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
  • 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 apply from 1st May to 25 September 2020 but will be kept under review.

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 30th June 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