Shropshire Council

Update from the SEN Team

16 July 2020 Last updated at 01:25

Dear Parent Carers

We recognise that children and families will have had a varied experience of their time during ‘lockdown’ and will also have a varied response to the latest announcements from the government that schools will open for all children in September.  Many children will be looking forward to seeing their friends again and re-establishing the routine and structure provided by school, whilst others may be feeling anxious and concerned about the return.  Shropshire education settings are working in close partnership with a range of services, agencies and practitioners to provide the necessary support and guidance to children and families to facilitate a safe and positive re-integration back into school or college and to respond to any concern’s families may encounter.

Guidance released by the Department for Education on 2nd July informed us that schools will be fully open from the beginning of September. The expectation is that children from all year groups would be welcomed back to attend full-time.  There will be a very small number of the most vulnerable children and young people who may, following clinical or public health advice, still be unable to attend.

We appreciate that returning to education settings may result in increased anxiety for some parents, carers, children and young people.  However, the guidance identifies that for the vast majority of children and young people, the risk to of becoming severely ill from Covid-19 is very low and the benefits of being back in an education setting far outweigh the very low risk from coronavirus.

The closure of schools has had a significant impact on many children and it is now recognised that, following the change in circumstances, it is vital for all children to return to school to minimise, as far as possible, the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing and wider development.

Missing out on more time in the classroom risks pupils falling further behind. Those with higher overall absence tend to achieve less well in both primary and secondary school. School attendance will therefore be mandatory again from the beginning of the autumn term. This means from that point, the usual rules on school attendance will apply, including:

  • parents’ duty to secure that their child attends regularly at school where the child is a registered pupil at school and they are of compulsory school age;
  • schools’ responsibilities to record attendance and follow up absence
  • the availability to issue sanctions, including fixed penalty notices in line with local authorities’ codes of conduct

The guidance includes advice from Public Health England around the measures that schools should implement to create an inherently safer environment for children and staff where the risk of transmission of infection is substantially reduced. These measures may differ for each setting and we would expect your school to share, with you, any measures they are putting in place.

Schools are expected to consider the potential concerns of pupils, parents and households who may be reluctant or anxious about returning and put the right support in place to address this. Parents are advised to discuss with their setting, any specific concerns they may have and to secure the support and reassurances required to ensure a successful return to school for their child.

For many children, and especially those with SEN, the changes to routine and adapting to the ‘new normal’ may prove to be challenging. The guidance acknowledges that some pupils with SEND (whether with education, health and care plans or on SEN support) will need specific help and preparation for the changes to routine that this will involve, so teachers and special educational needs coordinators should plan to meet these needs; for example using social stories, and work in partnership with parents and carers to implement appropriate strategies.

Schools need to be made aware of pupils who are reluctant or anxious about returning or who are at risk of disengagement so that they are able to develop plans for re-engaging them.  Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff will be available to work with schools and provide specialist interventions and support.  It is acknowledged that for some children their ‘lockdown’ experiences and/or lack of routines of regular attendance and classroom discipline may contribute to disengagement with education upon their return to school, resulting in increased incidence of poor behaviour. Schools should work with those pupils who may struggle to reengage in school and are at risk of being absent and/or persistently disruptive, including providing support for overcoming barriers to attendance and behaviour and to help them reintegrate back into school life.

In the spirit of co-production, education settings and parents need to work together in planning for the return of children to their setting in September. This might include visits to the setting, social stories, and other approaches that settings normally use to enable a child or young person with SEND, who has spent some time out of education, to return to full provision.  Parents are therefore advised, if they have specific concerns, to contact the school SENCo to discuss what measures may need to be considered to promote a successful re-integration back into full-time education for their child.

Garry Dean
Head of Centre
Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
SEN Team
01743 254267