Lockdown 3: What does it mean for the rights of children with SEND?

with Hayley Mason, SNJ SEND legal columnist

So here we are again, the whole country in full lockdown and back to those "heady days" of home education (although many never left).

Yesterday there was still no word on details from the Department for Education so below, our legal columnist, SEND solicitor, Hayley Mason, has popped by to explain.

Some schools were telling parents they would let them know what was happening with education in lockdown 3 when they themselves knew. One parent on our Facebook page said her child's boarding school had welcomed them back and kept them well informed. Another said their child's teacher had called twice and was dropping work off that evening. Another parent said their child's special school would be fully open tomorrow. So it certainly seems that some schools, at least, were expecting this and were prepared, while others closed for the day while they put plans into place.

When any new guidance is published we will bring it to you here. In the meantime, you can still use our remote education page for useful links, which I have just updated.

Who is on the list of critical workers or vulnerable children?

All children with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) are classed as "vulnerable". This means that under the restrictions, they have a right to be in school if this is what their parent wishes. If a parent prefers to keep their child at home, they can do so without being penalised.

However, many children in specialist provision are finding their school is not open for face to face teaching at all.

If your child qualified for free school meals, the government has said these will continue, so you should speak to their school about how this is being arranged. If you do not have a reliable internet connection or sufficient devices for schoolwork, again, speak to their school who should be able to arrange something, according to the government.

You can find the full list of those classed as critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings here and watch the video below for further information.

Early Years in, Exams out in 2021

In lockdown 3, children in nursery/early years can still go in, but university students must be taught online unless their courses are mostly practical.

Meanwhile, exams are casualties of the third lockdown. Despite the DfE insisting exams were the "fairest way", they have now been forced to follow Scotland and Wales and cancel the 2021 exam season. However, controversially, the DfE says BTECs and other vocational exams can go ahead.

What does it mean for your family and child?

The first lockdown was a disaster for disabled children. Our survey from then tells you everything you need to know. Our most recent survey, (which has been delayed because of my protracted house move-still in temporary accommodation in Wales right now!) will serve as a warning for getting back to school and will be out in plenty of time to help schools avoid the pitfalls of last time.

In theory, schools should now be ready to launch a full-on online curriculum. But while some, as above, have already swung into action, others are not as on the ball:

"...2 hrs of live lessons despite an email in November to inform them how stressful it was - no changes made. I've asked for alternative work but only maths & English has been posted, neither are inspiring. No TA support via TEAMS, unless I'm sat constantly with my child they can't do any work - it's going to be a long 6 weeks or so..." Parent via Facebook

"...None, no phone call, just the same standard message that I got with my other child about Google classroom. Today has been a nightmare as he hates Google classroom as he cannot work it properly and we have to write everything down then take pics and send off. It took 3 and a half hours to do 45mins of work..." Parent via Facebook

"...Mainstream: he can attend and will have EHCP provision. If I keep him home because I'm shielding provision is dilute..." Parent via Twitter

"...Remote learning to start online tomorrow but school open 8-4 for KeyWorkers etc..." Parent via Facebook

"...ASD Daughter, currently without EHCP (EHC NA currently in process) ...... has again been offered a place at her mainstream primary school." Parent via Twitter

"Our school just rang, offering a place or resources, whatever we need. Said we can go at our own speed. Also fought with us for correct EHCP. Feel very lucky to have found @RogerAschamSch..." Parent via Twitter

"...My son’s special school are expecting most children in and from next week closing every Weds for deep clean and teacher PPA time. Work to be sent home Tues to send back on Thursday."... Parent via Twitter

"...Nothing at all.. apart from an online form to tell them whether or not we are keyworkers we have had nothing from my autistic son's special school. In contrast, my younger sons mainstream has sent information and have prepared learning packs for the children to be picked up..." Parent via Twitter

"...My son's school have been brill and was last lockdown to, all on zoom online learning few lessons needed chasing up but feedback straight away when I contacted them..." Parent via Facebook

What is the current legal situation for disabled children? Hayley Mason explains

To help you understand what we know so far, our fab legal columnist, Hayley Mason joined me last night to explain, including how your child may still be able to go in even if they don't have an EHCP and you are not a key worker...

To reiterate Hayely's point: the vulnerable children and young people list ALSO includes those who are young carers, those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study) AND others at the provider and local authority’s discretion including pupils and students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health.

Download the transcript to the video here

SEN Legal Free webinar series

Hayley is also starting a new free weekly webinar series for parents from today with her firm, SEN Legal. The first is ‘Preparing for Annual Reviews’ Wednesday 6th January 2021, 7-8 pm Register here

Also read:

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Tania Tirraoro

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