Returning to school
What parents and carers need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges in the autumn term
On 2 July, government published guidance for parents and carers of children at:
- registered nurseries and childminders (this includes nurseries, childminders, pre-schools, playgroups and maintained nursery schools)
- primary and secondary schools (including independent schools, maintained schools, academies, free schools, infant schools, junior schools and middle schools)
- further education colleges
The guidance was updated on the 1 September and has a variety of information including how everyone can help make schools and colleges as safe as possible, arriving and leaving school or college and the curriculum and exams.
In the guidance it says:
‘Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) should also refer to the separate guidance for full opening of special schools and other specialist settings.’
On the 8 September this guidance was updated to reflect the actions special schools and other specialist settings need to support full opening from the start of the autumn term. There are a number of changes, which are listed at the start of the document and We have included the link to this document below.
Social distancing guidance for young people
On the 24 May the Cabinet Office published guidance for young people in England on social distancing that explains the new measures that will help young people stay safe as rules on being outside, or at school or work, change. This is general information and not specific for young people with SEND.
Amongst other topics, the guidance covers visiting public places, meetings in groups, going to work, and going to other people’s houses. It also includes advice for young carers and information on how to access health and care services.
Supporting children and young people with SEND
On Thursday 18 June the DfE updated guidance on supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening to clarify the issue of whether schools can request medical evidence ahead of re-admission of children and whether they can offer places to children and young people advised to shield.
The information added to the guidance is as included below.
Educational settings should not seek medical evidence except to help them to support the child or young person more generally.
In some cases, a family may request a place for a child or young person who is clinically extremely vulnerable and has been advised to shield. Shielding is for the protection of the child or young person so, if families or young people wish to take up a place, educational settings should not take the clinical vulnerability as a reason to refuse a place to a child or young person, if they would otherwise have readmitted them.
The return to educational settings of children and young people with EHC plans should be informed by risk assessments to help educational settings and local authorities ensure the right support is in place for them to come back. These assessments need to balance a number of different risks.
Some children with specific health conditions may have been identified as at very high risk of severe illness (clinically extremely vulnerable) if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19) and have received a personal letter advising them to shield. Currently, these children are advised to stay at home and not to attend school. This is voluntary and is for the protection of the child or young person. This also applies, rarely, if the child lives in a household with another family member who is shielding, and where the child is unable to practise robust social distancing. However, shielding advice will change for both adults and children as the number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to decline in our communities. Please see the latest guidance on shielding.
Children with some underlying health conditions have been advised to take particular care to follow social distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene advice (see the guidance on those considered clinically vulnerable. However, we know that clinical illness for children who might become infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) is generally much milder. Children in the clinically vulnerable group should therefore continue to attend or return to school.
Where clinically extremely vulnerable children do not attend school or other educational settings, the setting should continue to ensure that these children and young people continue to engage in learning as far as possible, for example through remote education, and that an increasing focus is put on preparing the way for their return.
The National Autistic Society has produced a Back to School guide for parents.