UK-wide education updates
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All schools in England reopened for all year groups and full time in September.
Contact's education experts have been looking at the new guidance (for special schools; for mainstream schools) published today to pick out the detail of interest to families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Schools are expected to have updated their risk assessments and where necessary to have put in place additional measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Coronavirus. These include:
- Keeping children together in the same groups or "bubbles" and limiting contact between groups
- Different start and finish times for the school day
- Encouraging older children to distance from each other and staff where possible
- Regular handwashing and cleaning of school areas.
- Access to testing in schools for those with suspected cases of Coronavirus
- Self-isolation of individuals or groups if there are confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Schools will have to provide remote education for pupils who have to self -isolate.
- School transport will continue but changes may be needed to reduce the risk of coronavirus, for example, more cleaning of vehicles or seating pupils differently
Some children and young people with SEND (whether with EHC plans or on SEN support) will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that these measures will involve, so staff should plan to meet these needs, for example using social stories.
Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff for pupils with SEND should provide interventions as usual.
Attendance is again be compulsory for children aged 5-16 from September, apart from pupils who are shielding or self isolating in line with medical advice.
Guidance says that schools should consider any challenging behaviours or social or emotional challenges arising as a response to the lockdown and offer additional support and phased returns where needed.
Legal duty to provide remote learning
Schools must provide remote learning for pupils of compulsory school age (five-16) who have been told to stay at home because of coronavirus.
- Individual pupils or groups of pupils who are required to self-isolate in line with public health guidance, for example because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
- Pupils who cannot attend their school because local or national restrictions are in place.
Schools do not have to provide remote education where parents have decided to keep their child at home.
Remote learning must be linked to the school curriculum and include direct daily teaching in a range of subjects. Printed resources must be provided where pupils do not have suitable online access.
Schools have a duty to make sure that pupils with SEND receive the extra help they need and this still applies to pupils who are accessing remote education. Some pupils with SEND may need more support from a teacher or learning support assistant. Schools must work with parents and make reasonable adjustments to ensure their home learning programme meets the needs of individual pupils.
Where a child with an EHC plan is accessing remote learning, the local authority remains responsible for making sure all of the special educational provision within the plan is provided. The help may need to be provided in a different way while the pupil is at home, for example an online speech therapy session instead of face to face. Decisions should be made on a case by case basis.
Schools reopened on 24 August 2020 for Primary 7, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils and for vulnerable children across all year groups. All other pupils returned at normal start dates.
The Department of Education has published new guidance setting out how schools should plan for the new school day and is available on the Department of Education website.
- Northern Ireland Re-opening School Guidance - New School Day(external link opens in a new window / tab)
- Northern Ireland Re-opening School Guidance - Special Schools(external link opens in a new window / tab)
More information about education
Visit nidirect.gov.uk for all the latest updates in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has published its own guidance on vulnerable children.
All schools in Scotland reopened full time in August.
New guidance has been published to support local authorities, teachers and parents to prepare for the new term and minimise the risks of Covid-19 transmission through the application of a number of infection mitigation measures. Every school will carry out a risk assessment and put in place enhanced hygiene and cleaning arrangements.
Neither primary pupils or secondary pupils need to physically distance from each other. However, where possible secondary schools should take practical, proportionate steps to encourage distancing between young people, particularly in the senior phase, provided it does not introduce capacity constraints
School staff will need to physically distance from each other and, where possible, from children and young people who are not part of the same household. For the majority of staff in schools, personal protective equipment will not be necessary, but guidelines make clear the exceptions to this position.
While all schools are reopening, there may be some arrangements particular to your local authority. The latest plans can be found on your local authority website where specific information on special schools, after-school clubs and holiday clubs should also be available.
We understand you may still be feeling worried about what will happen if coronavirus cases go up in your area. Where your child isn't able to go to school at all, the school will have a plan in place for them to learn from home, and if blended learning has to be put in place, schools will still be open, but pupils will only be in class on certain days of the week. See more information on blended learning.
In addition to Test and Protect - Scotland's test, trace, isolate, support strategy - a surveillance programme is being developed for schools, where regular testing and survey data will identify symptoms and infections in the school population. This will allow regular reporting on incidences of infection and inform the ongoing development of guidance for schools.
For full details visit Guidance for preparing for the start of the new school term in August 2020. There is also specific guidance for Coronavirus: residential childcare guidance.
You can watch a short film from the Scottish Government's National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch providing Advice for parents as schools open.
Children with Additional support needs going back to school
Children with additional support needs (ASN) can go back to school when they reopen unless the child's GP or healthcare team has advised against it.
It is understandable that you may have concerns about the reopening of schools and childcare settings. Schools and local authorities know that this has been a difficult time for children with ASN, and there has been a lot of work done to make sure that every child will continue to receive the ongoing support they need and to do that safely.
Some children and young people will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that these measures will involve, so staff should plan to meet these needs, for example using social stories.
Your child's school should have updated you with the plans they have put in place for children with ASN. If you have any questions or concerns, do contact the school or nursery directly.
Placing request refusals
If you have received a letter to inform you that your child has not been granted the nursery/school you had requested then you can appeal this decision.
If you have not received a letter and it has been three months since the date you applied then your request is treated as being refused (deemed refusal). Currently due to COVID, there are three months rather than the normal two for it to be classed as a deemed refusal.
Let's Talk ASN Scotland is a free service for parents of children with additional support needs who may require support in relation to a dispute or potential dispute with an education authority. It is funded by the Scottish Government to provide advocacy support for the parents of children with ASN with a right to make a reference to the ASN Tribunal for Scotland.
This service can support you through the process of appealing any decision, including placing request refusals. Email: email@example.com or Tel: 0141 440 2503 to find out more.
Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning (ASL), has specific information on how coronavirus is affecting ASL in Scotland at this time including information on the Additional Support Needs Tribunal.
Mindroom is a charity dedicated to supporting those living with a learning difficulty. They have developed a back to school toolkit for children of different ages, including a printable workbook for them to fill in.
Contact in Scotland - If you have a query or would like to talk through any concerns you have about your child going back to school or need other information and support just now, then please don't hesitate to email our enquiry line Scotland.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07458 046071 (Monday to Wednesdays).
Extra funding for additional teachers
The Scottish Government also announced that an additional £30 million will be allocated to Scottish local authorities to bring in additional teachers, building on the £45 miillion previously announced.
The total amount will be enough to recruit approximately 1,400 extra teachers to support education recovery and accelerate progress in achieving excellence and equity for Scotland's children.
Latest update on Monday 19 October: Wales first minister
announces secondary school closures in circuit-break lockdown
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced a two-week fire-break lockdown starting this Friday 23 October and ending Monday 9 November, including a partial closure of secondary schools.
The first week of lockdown coincides with the school half-term. In the second week, from Monday 2 November, all secondary school pupils except for those in year 7 and 8 will remain at home and continue their leaning remotely.
Primary and special schools will open as usual after the half-term break, as will secondary schools for pupils in years 7 and 8 only.
Pupils will be able to come in to sit exams, and universities will continue to provide a blend of in person and online learning.
Children can continue to access their usual childcare provider, and you can travel to provide, access or receive childcare. All childcare providers, including Flying Start childcare, can remain open and offer their normal services, including provision through the half-term holidays.
This includes childcare providers operating from community centres, places of worship and school sites. Nannies can also continue to provide childcare.
Schools reopened and welcomed back learners from 1 September.
Schools may consider staged arrival, departure and break and may therefore need to make temporary changes to the start and finish times of the school day. This supports the advice contained within the operational guidance for schools and settings from the autumn term that schools should consider staggering start and finish times to limit contact groups.
Actions for schools and local authorities
School governing bodies and local authorities should ensure they are able to welcome back all learners by 14 September and should plan their school session times based on the latest advice provided by the Welsh Government.
Changes to the start and end times of the school day, as well as lunch breaks, are permitted without the need for prior consultation or giving notice, for the purposes of increasing operations during the coronavirus pandemic only.
Changes to start and finish times can be disruptive for working parents. In addition, shortened break times may detrimentally affect learners, particularly if time to eat is limited. Schools and local authorities should ensure they carefully consider the impact on learners and parents when making such changes. Consideration should also be given to the impact that any changes may have on arrangements for dedicated school transport.
There are concerns that some pupils may have fallen behind with their learning. What is Welsh Government doing to address this issue from September?
The Welsh Government will provide an additional £29 million to schools to boost support for learners at crucial stages in their education from September.
The equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants will be recruited throughout the next school year, targeting extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages. This will support learners taking their A level and GCSEs in 2021 and those known to have been affected most.
The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils. A range of teaching approaches will be relevant, including blended learning.
Who should schools inform if a learner or staff member has displayed symptoms of COVID-19?
Persons displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should be sent home, and advised to arrange a test and ensure self-isolation guidance is adhered to. For learners, parents should be advised to arrange a test for their child. If the test comes back positive, the contact tracing system will commence for that case.
Contact tracers will get in touch with the school if there is a suspected cluster or potential outbreak, where they will ask for information from the school as to who was in the classroom if needed. Pupils and staff should only request a test if they are symptomatic, not if they suspect contact with a potentially positive case.
Guidance on learning in schools and settings from the autumn term: Keep Education Safe (COVID-19)
The Childrens Commissioner for Wales has a Coronavirus Information Hub for Families and Children including information & advice, support, activities.
Help for childcare funders
Welsh Government have announced a £4 million funding pot for childcare providers. The Childcare Provider Grant will offer dedicated funding for the childcare sector to help ensure more providers re-open as the schools return in September.