Coronavirus FAQs – Opening of educational settings to more pupils from 1 June

The government has announced that from 1 June, primary schools in England may be able to welcome back children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6. Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will also be able to provide some face-to-face support with young people in year 10 and year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year.

Particular care will be needed in planning for and supporting children and young people with EHC plans to return to their schools and colleges.  See GOV.UK guidance on supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening.

Why is it now safe for some children to return when it wasn’t previously?

The return for some children to their early years setting, school or college (educational settings) will only take place if the national risk level is lower than it was when educational settings were first asked to close to most pupils and students.

When that is the case, educational settings and local authorities, working with families, will bring back more children and young people who have not been attending.

This will be based on risk assessments for each child or young person, and within the limits of what the educational setting can accommodate, given any staff absences and the need for protective measures.

Are all children and young people with EHC plans expected to attend?

For children and young people with an EHC plan, when a child or young person’s needs can be met as safely or more safely in the educational environment, attendance is deemed ‘appropriate’ and these children and young people should be strongly encouraged to attend.

If their needs cannot be met as safely or more safely in the educational environment, attendance is ‘not appropriate’ at this time and these children and young people should remain at home and be supported through remote education and other services, where possible.

Can dual-registered children and young people attend both settings?

Moving between settings will increase the risk of viral spread, however there are circumstances where this may be required, such as where a child or young person’s needs cannot be met without provision in two settings. This means that provision in two settings is possible, but will be subject to the child or young person’s individual risk assessment, and on the ability of both settings to accommodate the child or young person.

It may be best for a child or young person to return to only one setting, or to return to one setting first before returning to both, so that their opportunity to receive on-site education is not delayed.

Does school or college provision have to be delivered as it usually is for children and young people with EHC plans?

The government has made a temporary change to the law on EHC plans due to coronavirus. The duty to provide what is written in an EHC plan has been temporarily changed so that local authorities and health commissioning bodies must use their ‘reasonable endeavours’ to provide all or some of the provision.

For some children and young people, the provision in their plan will continue to be delivered, but for others, the provision may need to be temporarily different to what is set out in their EHC plan.

Read more on the temporary changes on the Essex Local Offer.

Who needs to be involved in making/updating the risk assessment?

Local authorities and educational settings should carry out the risk assessment, taking into account the needs and views of the child/young person, their parents/carers and social workers and virtual school heads where appropriate.

How does this guidance impact children and young people who have an EHC plan and a social worker?

Decisions about whether these children and young people should attend or return to an educational setting should be made collaboratively on an individual basis. Local authorities and educational settings should work with parents or carers, the child or young person and social workers to carry out or update a risk assessment to work out where the child or young person’s needs and best interests can be best met.

How will risks to children, teachers and families be managed?

The government have provided guidance and support to schools, colleges and childcare settings on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings to help them to reduce the risk of spreading the virus as more children and young people return.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools and other settings will use a range of protective measures to create safer environments in which the risk of spreading the virus is reduced. This is likely to look different in each setting.

Schools and other settings should communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail.

What about the risk to staff working hands-on with pupils and students who cannot adhere to strict hygiene practices?

The government recognise that some children and young people with special educational needs present behaviours that are challenging to manage in the current context, such as spitting uncontrollably. It will be impossible to provide the care that some children and young people need without close hands-on contact. In these circumstances, staff should minimise close contact wherever possible, increase hand-washing and other hygiene measures, and clean surfaces more regularly and maintain existing routine use of personal protective equipment.

The government recommends that educational settings follow the Public Health England guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings and the guidance on safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care settings.