If your child is still in school (England)

Children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans

Because of Covid-19, temporary changes were made to the law on EHC plans to relax the rules around providing education and health support and to allow extensions to EHC timescales. 

All of these changes have now ended. This means that a child or young person is entitled to the support specified in their EHC plan and local authorities and health services now have a legal duty to make sure the support is provided. 

Legal timescales must now be followed for EHC processes, such as carrying out EHC assessments, issuing EHC plans and holding annual reviews.  

What will schools do to keep pupils and staff safe from Coronavirus?

Hygiene procedures

Schools must:

  • Have strict hand-washing policies.
  • Promote the "catch it, bin it, kill it" approach when it comes to coughing and sneezing.
  • Step up cleaning arrangements.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is only needed if staff already uses it in their normal work to provide intimate personal care to a pupil, or where supporting a pupil who has Covid-19 symptoms where two metre distancing is not possible.

Will school staff and children have to wear face masks in school?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) now recommends that children over 12 should wear masks in conditions where social distancing is not possible. In line with this, the government has recently revised its guidance on face coverings in secondary schools and further education colleges.

Where schools are in areas under local or national lockdown, pupils in year seven and above should wear face coverings in communal areas and when moving around the school (for example in corridors). In areas which are not under lockdown, individual schools can decide for themselves if pupils and staff should wear face coverings around the school.

The government advises that face coverings are not needed in the classroom, as they could make teaching and learning more difficult. Other protective measures, such as distancing and hand hygiene, should help to lower the risk of transmission in the classroom.

Some individuals do not have to wear face coverings. These include:

  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a disability or illness.
  • People who cannot put on, wear or remove a mask without severe distress.
  • People who are speaking to or helping someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

These exemptions also apply in schools and colleges.

Social distancing

Social distancing - making sure there is enough space between people to stop the Covid-19 virus spreading - has been put in place by the government. Schools are expected to encourage this where possible.

For example, many schools can rearrange classrooms to have forward facing desks with space between them, or markings on the floor to encourage one way systems and show children where to line up. Teachers are encouraged to maintain a two metre distance from each other and from pupils, for example, by teaching at the front of the class. Where this isn't possible teachers should avoid face to face contact spend as little time as possible within one metre of anyone.

It will be up to schools to decide how best to put in place these arrangements depending on the layout of the building, their size and class groupings.

My child doesn't understand social distancing, will they let him go back to school if he can't follow the rules?

Some pupils will not be able to understand and follow social distancing rules and should not be punished or excluded for this. Other measures, such as protective bubbles, handwashing and cleaning will be particularly important where social distancing is not practical, for example with younger age groups.

How should the school support my child with changing, feeding and administering medication, given social distancing rules? 

Social distancing will not be possible when working with many pupils with complex needs or where an adult needs to be in close contact with a pupil to provide personal care. The guidance is clear that educational and care support should be provided as normal.

Getting to and from school

The government has produced guidance on school transport from the autumn term.

The guidance says that public transport use should be kept to an "absolute minimum", especially at peak times. Staggered start and finish times may help with this and pupils are encouraged to walk or cycle to school where possible.

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport for children and young people over 11, unless they are exempt. Face coverings are not compulsory on dedicated school transport services, but they are recommended for all passengers over the age of 11.

School transport services will be expected to put measures in place to keep children safe such as:

  • Move children in 'bubbles' where possible.
  • Provide hand sanitiser.
  • Apply social distancing where possible.
  • Ask children over 11 to wear face coverings unless they are exempt where possible.
  • Ensure that vehicles are well ventilated
  • Increased cleaning of vehicles

Schools will also need a process for staff and pupils to remove face coverings safely on arrival at school.

Children eligible for free transport from their council must continue to receive this. For children with SEND, the transport must be suitable for their individual needs: this means safe and reasonably stress-free.

Local authorities and transport providers must consider the particular needs of children with SEND. They should consider the views of parents and the school:

  • Where all children and young people are travelling to the same special school, they could be transported in a whole school "bubble".
  • Where children and young people need close physical contact, staff may need to wash and sanitise their own hands more often.
  • Some children and young people behave in a way that increases droplet transmission, for example, biting, licking or spitting. In this situation distancing on transport will be particularly important.
  • Although face masks are generally recommended for everyone over 11, some children and young people with SEND may not be able to wear face masks or handle them safely. The use of face masks may also make communication difficult where lip reading is used.
  • Drivers and passenger assistants do not have to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for example gloves, aprons or goggles -  unless this is part of a child or young person's routine care.

My child's disability means they can't wear a mask - what will happen when they travel in the school bus or taxi?

Face coverings are not compulsory on school transport services. Children who cannot wear a mask, for example because of a particular condition, or because it would cause them severe anxiety, do not have to wear one.

My child gets free transport to his special school. Can I get a transport budget so I can take my child to school instead?

Personal travel budgets may be an option offered by your local council, with your consent. Check your local authority's transport policy and contact them to discuss it. The new guidance makes it clear that mileage allowances and personal budgets should cover the cost of the parent's journey to and from school in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

Special schools

Actions to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission will also apply to special schools, with some differences:

  • Some children and young people with SEND will need more support to understand the new routines and to follow them.
  • Social distancing should be practised where possible but it is recognised that not all children will be able to follow this.
  • Therapists and other visiting staff should provide support as usual.
  • Pupils who are dual registered at a mainstream and special school should attend both settings as usual and should not be isolated because of the risk of greater contact.

Separate guidance has been produced for special schools and for residential settings including residential special schools

Resources to help

  • ChildLine's Calm Zone has lots of ideas and activities you can do with children to help them keep calm and manage any anxiety they may be feeling about going back to school.
  • Toys and gadgets to help with your child's sensory needs from our Fledglings online shop is full of useful sensory toys other equipment to help your child with the return to school. Take a look in our Back to School department for some inspirational ideas.

Our page on coronavirus and your family's wellbeing has lots of resources and activities plus information on looking after yourself and your child, including tips on managing anxiety.

If your child has a learning or communication difficulty

  • Create a social story to prepare your child for their first day. National Autistic Society has information about social stories that you can use and make for your child to help them understand the return to school.
  • Widgit has a back to school toolkit of visual symbols parents can download to help children with finding the way, personal care, plus wellbeing and mental health resources.
  • Books Beyond Words - Lilly and Lenny return to school - a new story without words to help children returning to school after lockdown.

Help from your child's specific condition support group

You may find it useful to get in contact with the relevant support group or umbrella organisation for your child's condition to see if they have specific advice about attending school.

You can find the support group for your child's condition in our A-Z medical directory

Support from Contact

Listen back to our webinar on managing behaviour and anxiety

With Dionne Hollis (Occupational Therapist) and Stephanie Carr (Speech and Language Therapist) on support strategies for managing behaviour and anxiety

Listen again to our webinar on your child's legal rights 

Barristers Steve Broach and Polly Sweeney talk us through the  legal rights of children and young people with special educational needs returning to School in September.

Virtual parent workshops

Our popular free workshops programme is now online. Topics include: Encouraging Positive Behaviour, Wellbeing for you, and Managing your child's sleep. Visit our family workshops page for upcoming dates.

Listening Ear service

Our 'Listening Ear' service which provides free 1-1 support for parents via a telephone appointment with one our family support advisers, at a time that suits you. We can help with emotional support, strategies for reducing your child's anxiety and challenging behaviour or help you with structuring the day.  Visit EventBrite for upcoming timeslots.

You may find our information and parent guides on helping your child sleep and understanding your child's behaviour, packed with hints and tips, helpful at this time.