We are indebted to Ian Noon of the National Deaf Children’s Society for the following analysis of the latest guidance from the DfE. Please note that BATOD is keen to hear from members, including those not in England to which this information specifically applies, about their experiences and how we can continue to offer support as a professional association.
For info, DfE (England) have published new guidance on what schools should be doing during the current lockdown
The guidance is broad, covering operational issues around the opening of schools for eligible children, as well as remote education. Much of it appears broadly similar to what was in place before. I have copied below some key sections.
P12 Under national lockdown, in settings where pupils in year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults and pupils when moving around the premises, outside of classrooms, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained. This does not apply to younger children in primary schools and in early years settings.
Some individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings.
This applies to those who: • cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment or disability • speak to or provide assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate
The same exemptions will apply in education settings, and we would expect teachers and other staff to be sensitive to those needs.
The above new guidance does not include the statement that is in separate guidance on face coverings in education that face coverings are not necessary in classrooms. For reference, below is what this other guidance states. At the time of writing, this separate guidance hasn’t been updated since November. Nevertheless, it remains in force.
On the basis of current evidence, in light of the mitigating measures education settings are taking, and the negative impact on communication, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom even where social distancing is not possible. There is greater use of the system of controls for minimising risk, including through keeping in small and consistent groups or bubbles, and greater scope for physical distancing by staff within classrooms. Face coverings can have a negative impact on learning and teaching and so their use in the classroom should be avoided.
The new guidance reiterates (in several places) the expectation that peripatetic teachers should be allowed to visit schools.
P34 Deploying support staff and accommodating visiting specialists
Schools should ensure that appropriate support is made available for pupils with SEND, for example by deploying teaching assistants and enabling specialist staff from both within and outside the school to work with pupils in different classes or year groups.
Where support staff capacity is available, schools may consider using this to support catch-up provision or targeted interventions. Teaching assistants may also be deployed to lead groups or cover lessons, under the direction and supervision of a qualified, or nominated, teacher (under the Education (Specified Work) (England) Regulations 2012 for maintained schools and non-maintained special schools and in accordance with the freedoms provided under the funding agreement for academies). Any redeployments should not be at the expense of supporting pupils with SEND.
P17 Supply teachers, peripatetic teachers and other temporary staff can move between schools. They should ensure they minimise contact and maintain as much distance as possible from other staff. They should also participate in schools’ rapid testing programmes where these have been established. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual.
P26 Regardless of setting, schools are encouraged to work collaboratively with other schools and education providers and other local partners (including the local authority, social workers, police, youth services, key workers etc.) to maximise opportunities for face-to face provision for vulnerable children.
P33 Schools should continue to meet their equalities duties. Guidance is available in Equality Act 2010 advice for schools.
A bit more detail around expectations for schools in this area. Guidance reiterates need for reasonable adjustments to be made for children with SEND, involvement of adult support, and flexibility around this. I’ve copied a few excerpts below.
P46 Remote education
Due to the dedication of teachers and school leaders, the vast majority of schools have already been delivering remote education where it has been needed, continually improving their provision in line with expectations and emerging best practice. The temporary continuity direction makes it clear that schools have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded, school-age children whose attendance would be contrary to government guidance or law around coronavirus (COVID-19). The Direction requires schools to have regard to this guidance. Ofsted inspection will consider the quality of schools’ remote education in accordance with the expectations set out in this guidance. The remote education provided should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school and will include both recorded or live direct teaching time, and time for pupils to complete tasks and assignments independently.
The amount of remote education provided should be, as a minimum:
- Key Stage 1: 3 hours a day on average across the cohort, with less for younger children
- Key Stage 2: 4 hours a day
- Key Stages 3 and 4: 5 hours a day
If parents feel their children’s school is not providing remote education of a suitable quantity and quality, they are encouraged to in the first instance raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, if the concerns are not resolved, to report the matter to Ofsted.
P47 It may also be that some pupils who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children, and therefore eligible to attend provision in person. As outlined in the guidance, this is a decision based on local discretion and the needs of the child and their family, as well as a wide range of other factors.
[schools expected to] publish information for pupils, parents and carers about their remote education provision on their website by 25 January 2021 – an optional template is available to support schools with this expectation
We expect schools to consider these expectations in relation to the pupils’ age, stage of development or special educational needs, for example where this would place significant demands on parents’ help or support. Younger children in Key Stage 1 or Reception often require high levels of parental involvement to support their engagement with remote education, which makes digital provision a particular challenge for this age group. We therefore do not expect that solely digital means will be used to teach these pupils remotely. We also recognise that some pupils with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) may not be able to access remote education without adult support and so expect schools to work with families to deliver an ambitious curriculum appropriate for their level of need.
Special educational needs For pupils with SEND, their teachers are best-placed to know how the pupil’s needs can be most effectively met to ensure they continue to make progress even if they are not able to be in school due to self-isolating. The requirement for schools to use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision called for by the pupils’ special educational needs remains in place. Schools should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND can successfully access remote education alongside their peers. 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, for example, 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.