Many thanks to Ian Noon, of NDCS, for the following summary which included updated guidance documents published on 2 July by DfE:
On special schools and specialist settings – includes a few useful points:
Bubbles and social distancing
I was asked yesterday by a Teacher of the Deaf how the guidance around avoiding intermixing between groups or ‘bubbles’ in a school would apply to children in resource provisions.
The below excerpt seems to address this point. The guidance also suggests increased hygiene protocols in these cases and points to the fact there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Both the approaches of separating groups and maintaining distance are not ‘all or nothing’ options and will still bring benefits even if implemented partially. Some settings may keep children in their class groups for the majority of the classroom time, but also allow mixing into wider groups for specialist teaching, wraparound care and transport, or for boarding pupils in one group residentially and another during the school day. Siblings may also be in different groups. Endeavouring to keep these groups at least partially separate and minimising contacts between children and young people will still offer public health benefits as it reduces the network of possible direct transmission.
All teachers and other staff can operate across different classes and year groups in order to facilitate the delivery of the timetable and specialist provision but should minimise the number of interactions or changes wherever possible.
The guidance for mainstream schools didn’t make any direct reference that I could see to specialist SEND equipment. However, the guidance for special schools/settings includes the below. Colleagues will have seen the advice on the BATOD website about this.
Settings will need to make an assessment of the cleanability of equipment used in the delivery of therapies (for example. physiotherapy equipment, sensory equipment), to determine whether this equipment can withstand cleaning and disinfection between each use (and how easy or practical it would be to do so) before it is put back into general use. Where cleaning or disinfection is not possible or practical, resources will have to be restricted to one user, or be left unused for a period of 48 hours (72 hours for plastics) between use by different individuals.
The below sets out an expectation that catch up support for children with complex needs will focus on their individual needs.
£650 million will be spent on ensuring all pupils have the chance to catch up and supporting schools to rise to the challenge. This funding will be paid as a one-off grant to all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the 20-21 academic year. Whilst headteachers will decide how the money is spent, the Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance on effective interventions to support schools. For pupils with complex needs, we strongly encourage settings to spend this funding on catch up support to address their individual needs, including speech and language therapy, travel training, education psychologist time, or other small group and individual interventions. This could be either direct (i.e. the specialist spending time with the pupil) or indirect (i.e. the specialist spending time with school staff to design an intervention that the teacher/teaching assistant then delivers regularly). We will set out how this funding will be distributed between individual settings shortly.
Contingency plans for remote learning
Sensory impairment teachers are cited in a section on developing contingency plans around remote learning.
In developing these contingency plans, education settings should ensure that pupils and students can continue to engage in learning as far as is possible. Providers should engage proactively with parents and carers to explain the support that their children are receiving, to discuss the plans for returning to settings and to consider how parents can support this and any additional help they might need.
We have an experienced, expert workforce of:
- special educational needs co-ordinators
- education psychologists
- speech and language therapists
- qualified teachers of sensory impairments
- other therapists
- teaching assistants often with specialist knowledge
Temporary changes to SEND legislation
The Minister referred to this in his speech yesterday – it seems likely that the duty to make ‘reasonable endeavours’ for children with an EHC plan will end at the end of July. This suggests that in August, EHC plans will have the same legal force as they did before.
It’s unclear when the temporary change to statutory timescales will also come to an end – this is being kept under review.
Since May, as a result of the pandemic, it has been necessary to modify Section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014 so that local authorities and health commissioners must use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange the specified special educational/ health care provision in EHC plans. We are committed to removing these flexibilities as soon as possible so that children and young people can receive the support they need to return to school. As such, unless the evidence changes, we will not be issuing further national notices to modify the EHC duties, but will consider whether any such flexibilities may be required locally to respond to outbreaks.
We will also continue to monitor the need for the temporary changes to the law on EHC needs assessments and plans that give local authorities and others who contribute to the relevant processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19). These changes are currently in force until 25 September.
Whilst all of the above points are all taken from guidance for special schools and specialist settings, NDCS would take the view that the same principles apply in other settings when working with children with specialist needs.