We know that your role in this unprecedented time is to reassure your child as best you can and to support their wellbeing. Understandably you may feel unprepared and overwhelmed.

We are working with South Glos Parents and Carers (the local parent carer forum) to provide essential information for families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

As the coronavirus COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly, we will be reviewing this page regularly. Temporary legislation became effective from the 1 May 2020, and is explained in the following guidance: Education, health and care needs assessments and plans: guidance on temporary legislative changes relating to coronavirus (COVID-19). In this, the Government has sought to strike the right balance between the needs of children and young people, and managing the demands on local authorities (LAs) and health bodies to respond.

Vulnerable children

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker, and children and young people up to the age of 25 with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Visit the GOV.UK website for further guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on vulnerable children and young people.

Support for families

Check our education and support for children and young people page for advice on the support available to children and families.

Education, health and care plans (EHC plans)

Requests for statutory assessments

We are continuing to follow the statutory process as much as we can, although it will be difficult in the current circumstances to continue as normal. The recent open letter sent to all young people and families highlighted that there would be changes to some of the legislation relating to statutory EHC assessments.

It is important to note that only some aspects of the law on EHC needs assessments and plans have changed temporarily.  The impact of coronavirus may mean that the process and provision in place previously may need to change for the time being.

Children under assessment are not included in the vulnerable child group. However, their educational setting has the discretion to offer support. We encourage parents and carers to discuss this with the Headteacher.

Assessment timescales

The Department of Education has considered whether regulations need to be amended in order to allow greater flexibility on the timescales relating to the EHC plan process.

Although the 0-25 SEN team continue to work, in many cases it will be very difficult to complete the assessment process within the 20-week timeline. This is because the assessment process is heavily dependent on the availability of professional advice from education, health and care. Many professionals are not available, this may be because they need to self-isolate or because they have to be redeployed to meet the demands of the current situation. As a result of this, and in line with the revised temporary legislation and guidance, assessments will be completed as soon as reasonably practicable.

Completing assessments

We will try to be as flexible as we can be within the constraints of the current regulations. For example: we will see whether we have historic reports/advice which could (with the agreement of the parent, contributing professional and the local authority) be used instead. Such reports could be updated if the professional can make contact with school and parent to get further information.

Although we are no longer able to offer face to face draft plan meetings, we will offer telephone conversations with parents to discuss the content of plans.

We will keep in touch with parents with regular updates about the progress of their child’s assessment process.

Provision for children with EHC plans

We are working together with parents and carers, educational settings and other partners to plan for children with EHC Plans.

In line with the government advice, we work to a principle that for the vast majority of children, it is safer for them to stay at home. This will need to be considered on a case by case basis so that an informed risk assessment takes place.

The educational offer is likely to depend on:

  • parental views and wishes – we already know that the vast majority of parents and carers prefer to keep their children at home
  • potential health risks to the individual from COVID-19, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions – this must be on an individual basis with advice from an appropriate health professional where required
  • sufficient workforce available to look after children safely – this may mean that staff work outside of the usual boundaries of maintained, academy, college or other status to ensure the right staff are in the right settings
  • other services being available to support schools, for example drivers and escorts supporting children on their way to school

High regard will be given to the judgement of school staff and families, who are ideally placed to make accurate risk assessments about whether or not children should attend school or stay at home.

For children with existing EHCP plans we will use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure or arrange their provision. This means considering what needs to be provided during this period on a case by case basis, in partnership with parents.

Some children’s plans will continue to be delivered as usual. For others, their provision may be being different to that which is set out in their EHC plan.

To decide this we need to consider:

  • the specific local circumstances, such as workforce capacity and skills, temporary closures of education settings, and guidance on measures to reduce the transmission of coronavirus
  • the needs of and specific circumstances affecting the child or young person, and
  • the views of the child, young person and their parents over what provision might be appropriate

Examples of alternative arrangements could include:

  • alterations to the frequency and timing of the delivery of provision in school, such as moving to a part-time timetable
  • a temporary placement in another school – mainstream or special, with the agreement of the parent or young person
  • attendance at a local hub
  • video class sessions for children to keep in touch with classmates and teaching staff
  • home learning reading programme, provided by SENCo, reviewed weekly
  • specialist SEN Teachers providing advice and support to parents regarding autism, visual or hearing impairment or literacy

We will keep a record of the provision arranged and confirm to parents or the young person what has been decided, explaining why the provision differs from that in the plan for the time being.

We will also keep under review whether the provision is still complying with the reasonable endeavours duty, and takes account of the changing circumstances for the child, and for services.

EHC plan annual reviews

Annual review requirements remain in place.  A review meeting, even if by necessity briefer than usual, can be reassuring for parents, children and young people by ensuring that their EHC plan is up to date. Where it is impractical for an annual review of a plan to take place for a reason relating to coronavirus it must be completed it as soon as reasonably practicable.

Following social distancing rules, schools are being asked to discuss with parents and carers whether it is possible to hold the annual review virtually (Skype and conference calls). Key to this decision is to consider if the review can be done effectively in these circumstances.

We are asking schools to consider if this is possible on case by case basis for example:

  • if there is up to date information including professional reports and contributions, and a thorough review gaining the input of the child and parent can be carried out, we recommend that it goes ahead
  • if the review requires input from other professionals and they can make that contribution available, again the review should go ahead
  • if the review requires information or professional involvement and advice that currently cannot be easily obtained, or the review is likely to be very complex, postponing the review will be considered. This decision should be discussed with parents and carers.

If necessary contact your case officer from 0-25 SEND team to discuss your particular circumstances.

School places and education support

Sending your child to school

The government advice is that every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. This is an offer to parents and carers and there is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so.  For vulnerable children, your child’s social worker will work with you to assess the best option for your child. Schools, childcare providers and colleges are doing everything they can to accommodate the needs of children with EHCPs and children of key workers.

Any changes to, or reductions in provision during this outbreak will be temporary.  There will be no permanent change to the EHC plan made as a result of the COVID-19.

Who to contact about arrangements and support offered by the school

If you have questions about the arrangements and support offered by the school we would encourage you to contact the Headteacher or the SENCO at your child’s school.

Parents and carers can also contact their allocated case officer, with questions about their child’s EHCP. The 0-25 SEND team are working remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions, however they will be available by email.  If you do not receive a response within 3 days or your query is urgent, email 0-25ServiceEducationDuty@southglos.gov.uk or phone the 0-25 Education Service (duty line): 01454 865137 and the duty officer will respond to you as soon as possible.

Supporting transition back into school

The rate of infection remains too high to allow the re-opening of schools for all pupils yet. However, it is important that vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an Education, Health and Care plan (and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities) and the children of key workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted.

Following the government announcement for a possible phased re-opening of schools in June, Headteachers, SENCOs and teachers are starting to plan for this and will be communicating in the coming weeks with parents and carers within their community.

When schools do re-open in a phased approach, planning for re-integration for pupils with SEND will be personalised, based on each child’s needs, in partnership with parents and carers. Planning will also take place to ensure safe travel to school where a pupil is entitled to South Gloucestershire transport provision.

It remains the case that some pupils who have an EHCP are more clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. Clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, and therefore a risk assessment discussion between parents or carers and school will take place to decide if the pupil is safer to remain at home or go to school.

Transport to school

If you receive assistance with school transport provided by the council, check our education and support for children and young people page.

Support for children with EHCPs who are not attending school

The first priority for parents/carers and schools is keeping children safe and supporting their wellbeing which is why, for almost all children with an EHCP, home is the best place for them to be. We do not want children to feel pressure to do specific learning and we encourage you to be flexible, as you know them best.

All families need to find their own routine and to not feel under pressure to ‘home school’.

We have produced a range of resources and support for SEND families by working closely with our partners, including South Glos Parents and Carers and Integra Schools:

• check the new SENsational area of the Integra Home Learning website. These are resources chosen specifically to provide support for parents of children with special educational needs

• South Glos Parents and Carers have created a range of resources and links to help you, check the South Glos Parents and Carers website for details.

• read Issue 1 of the ‘SENsational learning ideas’ newsletter, designed to support parents and carers with learning at home for children

If you have any questions about your child’s home learning it is best to contact your school in the first instance.

Health and social care

Health and care services are continually reviewing arrangements with schools and families to maintain support and will do so whenever possible.

Free school meals and food vouchers

For information on free school meals and food vouchers, check our education and support for children and young people page.

Hospital passports

A hospital passport is a document to help children and young people with learning disabilities and other lifelong disabilities. The aim of the hospital passport is to provide doctors and nurses with information about your child during a hospital visit. 

You can complete a hospital passport for your child on the University Hospital Bristol website.

Going to hospital with COVID-19

If you need to take your child to hospital because they have coronavirus (COVID-19), complete and take with them the NHS COVID-19 Grab and Go form.

This should be used in conjunction with your hospital passport.

Read the NHS COVID-19 Grab and Go guidance notes for advice on filling in the form.

Health appointments

You will be contacted if your appointment has to be cancelled. If you are unwell or have been in contact with someone who has become unwell, do not attend without contacting your health professional first.

Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP)

Visit the Community Children’s Health Partnership website to check the details of service changes for a range of CCHP services, which include some services related to SEND.

A dedicated telephone advice and information service is available for families currently receiving care from Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP) teams. For the latest information check the Community Children’s Health Partnership website and their Covid-19 page.

Easy read information

Easy read coronavirus information

Useful contact information

For health information and advice about coronavirus, visit the NHS 111 website in the first instance.

Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy advice service: 07917 393196

Speech and Language Therapy advice service:
North Bristol – 0300 124 5832
South Bristol – 0300 125 6279
East and Central Bristol – 0117 3408242
South Gloucestershire – 01454 862438

School Health Nursing and Health Visiting advice service:
North Bristol – 0300 1245816
South Bristol – 0300 1256277
East and Central Bristol – 0117 3408322

Autistic Spectrum Disorder Hub Team advice service: 0300 125 6207 or 0300 125 6206

Additional advice

If you need further advice from the council’s SEND team, you can email: SENDCovidEnquiry@southglos.gov.uk or phone 01454 866123 (staffed between 9am – 1pm Monday to Friday).

The SEND local offer is your source of information on help and support for families and children 0-25 with special educational needs and disabilities.

South Glos Parents and Carers are a supportive community of parents and carers who work to improve services and support for children, young people with additional needs and their families.

South Glos Parents and Carers have developed a virtual support service, where parents and carers can join an online support group, a relaxed and informal fortnightly evening meet-up to share challenges and celebrate successes with those who truly understand. One-to-one support is also available by arrangement via video call, phone call or email. Visit the South Glos Parents and Carers website for further information on the virtual online support available.

Supportive Parents, the local SENDIAS service, offer free, impartial and confidential information, advice and support to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their parents/carers.

Answers to your questions

We have worked with the South Gloucestershire Parent Carer Forum to answer some of the most common questions that parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities have been asking.  Visit our answers to your questions page.

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