Open letter to the SEND community from children and families minister Vicky Ford

The children and families minister Vicky Ford MP has written an open letter to the SEND community in which she outlines some of the latest information and guidance relating to the current national lockdown.

Download letter from Minister Ford to SEND sector 14 Jan 2021 (PDF)

Key headlines include:

  • The legal duty on schools and colleges to use their best endeavours to meet the special educational needs of their pupils and students, including those supported through SEN Support, remains unchanged, whether they are attending school or college or at home for any period.
  • EHCP provision: it remains the duty of the local authority and health commissioning body to secure or arrange the provision specified in the plan under section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Where it becomes more difficult to do so, education settings, local authorities and health partners (where applicable) should discuss with families to co-produce alternative arrangements for delivering provision. These decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis which takes account of the needs of and circumstances specific to the child or young person, avoiding a one size fits all approach. At this stage, we do not intend to use the powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to modify the section 42 duty, but we will keep this position under review based on the evidence.
  • All pupils and students not receiving face-to-face education for whatever reason should be provided with suitable remote education. Education settings should work collaboratively with families, putting in place reasonable adjustments as necessary, so that pupils with SEND can successfully access remote education alongside their peers.
  • Children and young people can continue to receive appropriate support from health and social care services where it is reasonably necessary for the purposes of provision specified in an EHC plan. Specialists, therapists, clinicians and other support staff can provide interventions as usual, including where this requires them to move between settings.
  • The decision for a child or young person with an EHC plan to stay away from their education setting is ultimately a matter of choice rightly for parents and young people. If a parent wishes for their child to be absent or a young person chooses not to attend, they should inform the education setting of this so it can be properly recorded. Given the exceptional circumstances, the Departmental guidance is clear that it expects leaves of absences to be granted. Absence will not be penalised.
  • Covid testing is voluntary, so no child or young person will be tested unless informed consent has been given by the appropriate person (usually the parent or young person). As such, no children or young people will be prevented from receiving face-to-face education if for any reason they are not tested.
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