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SEND Briefing from Barnsley Schools Alliance in Relation to COVID-19 Period

SEND Briefing from Barnsley Schools Alliance

The briefing gives information for Barnsley MBC parents /carers, schools/academies and educational settings about children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities during the Covid-19 period.

You will find information on how the Corona Virus Act 2020 has impacted on local education arrangements, how to access education and contact details of who can help and support. It also outlines the impact on decision making panels and how assessments and annual reviews are being undertaken.

You can read the full briefing by clicking the boxes below or if you prefer you can click the useful downloads to the right of the page;

Introduction

The Barnsley Schools Alliance is concerned that in the current circumstances we do all we can, collectively, to protect our most vulnerable children and young people.  This information is aimed, therefore, at all education providers including schools/academies, colleges and early years settings and the parents/carers in Barnsley who have children and young people with SEND

As we are all aware, we are currently going through an extraordinary time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  To keep the spread of the virus from growing, the Government has temporarily closed schools and other educational settings for most of our children and young people.  The impact of this on parents/carers and children and young people is significant, especially for those families who have children or young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

As a response to this, the Government has introduced the Coronavirus Act, 2020, that will provide powers to require schools/settings, including childcare providers, to stay open for the children of key workers or those who are considered vulnerable.  In addition, some requirements around education legislation may be 'relaxed' in order to help schools/academies and educational settings to run effectively during the event of an emergency. 

This could include:

  • Reducing teacher ratios.
  • Adapting school meal standards.
  • Relaxing provisions for those with special educational needs.

Some of these measures have already been put in place as they will ensure that children, young people and those who work with them remain safe, while minimising disruption to everyday life and progression to further and higher education or employment by ensuring schools have the flexibility and support that they need to enable them respond to the changing situation.

Access to Education

Bearing in mind the safety of all, for many children and young people with SEND, the best place for them at the present time will be to remain at home.  In all cases, schools and academies should work with parents and carers and the local authority to ensure decisions regarding whether a child can or should be in school are made together and based on a clear rationale and assessment of risk.

The Barnsley Schools Alliance are united in the aim of keeping as many of our schools/academies, early years and further education settings open as possible for children and young people who are vulnerable and for children of key workers.   

If you are the parent/carer of a child or young person with SEND, we recognise the difficulties keeping them at home may bring.  In the current situation everyone is doing their best to keep things as routine as possible whilst recognising that education is best delivered in schools/academies and educational settings. 

Therefore, if you feel that your child needs to be in school and isn’t currently accessing education, please discuss this with your child’s normal school/setting in the first instance. 

If you remain concerned that your child isn’t or can’t be in school or have other concerns, you can also speak with colleagues from the following teams, who will be happy to help. 

As a local area, with responsibilities to all children and young people with SEND, we are also affected in how we support them, their families and schools, academies and educational settings.  School closures, social distancing, working from home and self-isolation mean that the decision-making processes we typically carry out may not be able to be done in the same way.

This includes carrying out education, health and care needs assessments, annual reviews and decision-making panels about SEND placements, e.g. for access to mainstream resourced provision and special schools. 

Despite the current challenges, however, we will maintain our usual approach, wherever we can to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of children and young people with SEND and their families. 

 

How decisions may be affected

Decision making panels provide professional advice and guidance to ensure robust decisions are made, in line with the regulations set out in the Children & Families Act and the SEND Code of Practice.  

So that we make the best decisions for our children and young people, cases are considered at panel when accurate and current information has been received from the child or young person’s current school/setting, their parents/carers and from professionals across education, health and social care who may be involved.

Panels are not compulsory as all decisions lie with the local authority, however, we value the discussion, challenge and opinion they bring to enable the best decisions to be made. 

Decisions we make include things such as, whether to carry out an education, health and care needs assessment, whether to issue an EHCP and to whether to consider/agree a specialist placement for a child or young person.

Panels are still being held during this time, but they are being done ‘virtually’ to protect people and avoid unnecessary contact, i.e. meetings take place by people logging in through a secure internet website. 

As the current situation means that children and young people are probably not in school and the fact that we are all practicing social distancing, working from home and self-isolation, it may be difficult for everyone to provide up to date information for panels.  This may affect our decision making and lead to a longer period before we can move some cases forward.

We will, however, endeavour to address all of the needs of children and young people with SEND to the best of our ability through regular panels including the following:

 

Panel

Purpose

When/frequency

Who attends

ORG

To agree, issue, amend or cease an EHC Plan. Amendments include changes in funding and provision.

Weekly – held on Tuesdays

Senior representatives from the EHC Team, Inclusion Services, Health and Social care

Portal

Manage EHC Needs

Assessment applications and decide whether statutory assessment is required

Weekly – held on Tuesdays

Senior representatives from the EHC Team, Inclusion Services and SENCOs

 


 

Carrying out assessments

Guidance from the Government regarding school closures and social distancing means that the education, health and care needs assessment (EHCNA) process may not be able to be carried out in the usual way. 

All new requests for EHCNA will continue to be considered and decisions made whether to carry out an assessment will be made, wherever possible, in line with the six-week statutory timescale. 

Education, Health and Care Coordinators will be available via email and telephone contact and will make every effort to communicate with parents/carers and schools/settings in a timely way.

Advice and information, that is a key part of the EHCNA process, will continue to be requested from education settings, education inclusion services, health and social care colleagues, whilst recognising the challenges the current situation may pose for them providing that within time-scale.  This must also be done in compliance with the Government guidance, which may mean:

  • Information may be gathered via secure weblinks.
  • Consultations will take place using online methods, e.g. Microsoft Teams, wherever possible.
  • Email contact may be used to contacting school/setting colleagues and other professionals.
  • Contact with children, young people and parents/carers can be made via email or telephone

In all cases, information must be treated in compliance with the general data protection regulations (GDPR) and encrypted, wherever possible.

Following an EHCNA, a decision regarding whether to issue an EHCP, will be communicated to parents/carers and schools/settings by week sixteen of the process.  If an EHCP is being issued, they will work with the child or young person and their parents/carers via email and/or telephone to draft the EHCP in co-production.  Fifteen days will be provided for any comments and discussions about the draft EHCP in line with statutory time-scales.

Consulting schools/settings regarding suitability of a placement may be impaired due to the current situation but we aim to keep to the fifteen calendar days response time before we proceed with naming a school/setting in an EHCP.   will make every effort to ensure that full and clear information and discussion has been provided throughout all our processes and procedures. 

 

 

Annual Reviews

We are continuing to provide advice for Education, Health and Care Needs assessments and annual reviews, as appropriate, for children and young people as this is a key priority for us, so that we can all ensure they receive the support they need. 

We recognise the importance of ensuring that all provision for children and young people is reviewed regularly.  Therefore, wherever possible, we are continuing to carry out annual reviews of EHCPs for children and young people who already have them. 

We will work with parents/carers and schools/settings to try to accommodate these in a way that works for everyone.  This may mean carrying out reviews through telephone and other technological methods. 

The offer over the summer term is based on ensuring that we can offer support to our most vulnerable children and young people in Barnsley, but at this difficult time for everyone, we want to do all we can to support schools/settings and families. 

 

 

 

Further information, advice and resources

For parents/carers:

 

For children and young people:

 

For schools/settings

Government documents and suggested websites for education:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-online-education-resources/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-online-education-resources-for-home-education

A range of useful resources: https://www.howareyoufeeling.org.uk/coronavirus-resources

 

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