Cheshire East SEND, COVID update (1): places during closures, SEN team, EHC processes & family support
Last week, parent representatives collated some of your queries and raised a some of your concerns with the SEND partnership. They have asked us to share their responses with you
- Cheshire East SEND COVID update (2) Post 16 options, transition arrangements, plans for reopening settings
- Cheshire East SEND COVID update (3) EHIPS, reasonable adjustments, priority service to support carers
Places for children & young people with EHC plans during the current closures:
We raised that some parents who felt their child or young person’s needs could not be safely met at home were unable to access a placement, either because the school was not supportive or because the provision they were able to offer in current circumstances would not be suitable.
Response: The DfE guidance is clear that many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home. We have asked all educational setting to complete a risk assessment to inform whether a child or young person needs to continue to be offered a school/college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home.
We have launched a specific email address for parents to contact if they feel their child does need to attend school and we will review the risk assessment in these cases and facilitate a discussion about whether a child or young person should return to school.
Please note this is for queries specifically relating to wanting your child to attend school during the current school closure and not about a child’s plan or needs assessment.
In attending school at this time, it is important that parents understand that the experience for their child will be different than pre-closure. For example, most schools have staff on rotas so there will be changes in teaching staff and teaching assistants, they may be using different classrooms and the structure of the day will be different. We appreciate this may be unsettling for some children and therefore the needs of some children will be best met at home. Schools are focusing primarily on ensuring they care for the child in a way that meets their needs.
SEND team communication
We raised that some members have been reporting difficulty making contact with the SEND team, with emails going unanswered. We explained that we have been signposting people to the new email address SENTeamEast@cheshireeast.gov.uk and asked if other mailboxes were being checked as some service users might not be aware of the change.
Response: We have received numerous compliments from parents about the level of contact during the recent pandemic which is very pleasing and reassuring as staff are working extremely hard and often going above and beyond to try to support families. Co-production will take place either when writing the draft plan or the draft plans may be issued and then a telephone call takes place to discuss the draft plan and make changes. There has been increased communication with families throughout the process.
Impact of closures upon needs assessments / Annual Reviews
[NOTE – this response was sent at 3pm on 30/04/20, before the changes to legislation were announced Click here for more information on temporary amendments to the Children & Families Act effective 01/05/20. The PCF has had contact from the SEND partnership about working together to understand how these changes may affect CE SEND team services – if you would like to share your views with parent reps so that they can better represent you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org]
We passed on concerns about the impact of closures upon normal EHC processes including needs assessments and annual reviews.
Response: We are continuing to process Need Assessments, but where a child has not been known to our Educational Psychology team it is difficult for them to provide child-centred, quality advice. Also, Health colleagues have said they will issue advice based on contact they have had, but again new assessments will be difficult to complete.
SEND panel has continued to take place every two weeks as per previous arrangements, these have taken place as virtual meetings and we have had full attendance from all multi agency panel members.
We are happy to have conversations about what additional support we could put in place where a needs assessment has not been submitted as parents and/or schools do not have information to support progressing to a need’s assessment, especially where this is needed to support transition. This may then enable us to ensure appropriate provision is in place in the interim and importantly enable good quality advice to ensure the EHCP is of good quality.
Click here for specific advice issued about how the Cheshire East SEN team will work with settings to process Annual reviews. Again, please note that this advice was issued prior to the legal amendments effective 31/05/2020
Support for Families
We raised some general concerns about the difficulties some of our members have been experiencing trying to support their child / young person’s learning at home, and without the “respite” offered by their attendance at educational settings.
Response: We are aware of the challenges that all parents are facing in having their children at home for such an extended period. We have looked to provide support in terms of the following for children with an EHC plan to ensure we can meet their need as best as is possible in the circumstances:
- Provision of tailored online support linked to the different types of needs
- Specialist advice has been provided for school SENCOs to help them to support children and families.
- Advice online for parents, focused on self-care as well as ideas for supporting children/young people with Special Educational Needs during the day, including an Occupational Therapy timetable.
- Tuition at home continues for those previously being supported through this team
- New helpline for parents who feel their child’s need can be better met at school to help facilitate them starting back at school where it is appropriate.
I am also aware that most schools are continuing to keep regular contact with children and families and offer support. We are planning further guidance for schools which will share some of the best practice that is taking place.