Coronavirus: information and updates

Returning to school during coronavirus

Some schools will reopen following government guidance and they should run differently because of coronavirus. For example, they may have different staff or safety measures, such as smaller classes and social distancing.

If you’re in local lockdown, the rules may be different in your area.

Check GOV.UK for local lockdown rules

The school and local authority should work with you to make an informed decision about your child’s return. They must carry out a risk assessment if your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or complex needs. This can include children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) support but no EHCP.

Shielding advice for children in England (GOV.UK)

Information about schools opening in Wales (gov.wales)

Warning Keep checking the rules

Your child will be expected to attend if the school shows their needs can be safely met at school. This rule may change.

Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools prepare to open (GOV.UK)

Information about schools during coronavirus (GOV.UK)

Guidelines are also different in England and Wales, so some schools may return earlier than others. If your child travels across the border to school, check with your local authority to make sure you are not breaking any rules.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Get support from the school

You might worry about sending your child back to school, especially if they have special educational needs. Your child's school may already be doing risk assessments and have some measures in place to welcome children back.

Local authorities and schools must do their best to provide your child's EHCP provision or reasonable alternatives. What they can offer will depend on:

  • how the school is running during coronavirus
  • your child's needs

All schools must document what they’re doing to support children with SEN during lockdown, including EHCP provision. They should do this with you as parents, whether your child is returning to school or not.

Ask for a copy of the risk assessment or the school’s plan for preparing to open. Contact your school by phone or email if they have not been in touch.

Gradual reopening of schools and safety measures (IPSEA)

Email your concerns

Someone from school has probably contacted you if your child has an EHCP. But you may not have discussed how you can help your child transition back to school.

Email your Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCO) or teacher a list of your concerns.

These may include:

  • changes to your child’s routine
  • schools operating differently with social distancing measures
  • your child falling behind or feeling unprepared for the new school year
  • their transition to a new school
  • not enough educational support when they return, such as different or fewer staff
  • how they’ll socialise safely with other children
  • how the situation will affect their wellbeing and the rest of your family

If you have a difficult relationship with the school, try to keep the focus on your child’s wellbeing. Say that you’d like to work with them to make sure your child can return smoothly.

For example, you could keep a diary to show how your child is coping at the moment.

Get support from the charity Contact

Ask for a video call

Organise a video call with your child’s SENCO, ALNCO or teachers to discuss their return to school. If English is not your first language or you use British Sign Language (BSL), ask what support is available for you to arrange a meeting so that you’re comfortable.

You may want to ask:

  • what safety measures will be in place, like personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing
  • which staff will work with your child and how they can get to know them before returning
  • if transport will be available, for example if your child usually takes the school bus
  • what other differences your child should expect
  • how they think your child will respond to these differences
  • what you can do to prepare your child for returning to school

If your child is older, ask if they want to be on the call with you. Let the school know if they do, and if they have specific worries or triggers at the moment.

How to do video calls (Age UK)

Contact your parent support service

If your school is unsure how they can help your child return to school, contact your local authority’s independent parent support service.

The service may have a different name depending on your area. They’re sometimes called:

  • Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)
  • Information Advice and Support Service (IASS)
  • Parent Partnership Service

Services may be running differently at the moment, and you may have to wait for them to get back to you. Contact them by email if you cannot reach them by phone.

Get support from parents in similar situations (mumsnet)

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Delays in EHCP assessments

Ask your local authority to explain why if they tell you there are delays to your child’s EHCP assessment.

EHCP assessments should be continuing as normal and must be completed within 6 weeks. The only reason for a delay is if someone involved is unwell with coronavirus or at risk of spreading it.

Contact your SENDIASS if they do not give you an explanation.

SEN support and EHCPs

Education health and care plans legislation changes (GOV.UK)

Prepare your child to return to school

No one knows your child and how they respond to change better than you. Once you know what the changes are, it can help to share these with your child so they know what to expect. You could try a few different ways, depending on your child's needs. For example:

  • use drawings to show them how their classroom may look
  • show them photos of new staff
  • show them handwashing, social distancing and other safety measures
  • show them face masks and gloves so they’re familiar with them
  • tell them about their new routine or create a visual timetable, including what time they’ll get up, how they’ll get to school, lunch time and returning home
  • ask them about any worries they have if they’re anxious about returning

If you have an older child, they may have different concerns about their return to school. For example, pressure from friends to go outside when they should be shielding. Ask them about their worries and reassure them that you’ll help them adapt as things change.

Social stories and comic strips (National Autistic Society)

Help with negative emotions (Families Under Pressure)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 24/06/2020

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