Disability and Special Educational Needs: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the Children’s Commissioner for England on 2 September that children with special educational needs and disabilities could be at greater risk of exclusion unless they receive additional support upon their return to school following the closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

As my hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, set out in her letter of 2 September to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their families and carers and those who work to support them, we know that it is critical that all pupils and students can once again benefit from a full-time on-site education 5 days a week. Schools and colleges should work with children and young people with SEND and their families and carers so that they receive the education, therapeutic support or specialist support and reasonable adjustments that they need.

The prolonged period of absence from schools and colleges may contribute to pupils’ anxiety and disengagement with education, which could lead to increased incidences of poor behaviour. School leaders should be mindful that any disruptive behaviour might be the result of pupils’ unmet educational needs or other needs and should consider whether a multiagency assessment is necessary.

Our guidance advises that schools should update their behaviour policy as well any new rules and routines to reflect the new protective measures. The guidance for the full opening of schools is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

The guidance for the full opening of special schools and other specialist settings is available here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings.

In the event that a pupil’s behaviour warrants disciplinary action, the normal rules apply. The disciplinary powers, including exclusion, that schools currently have remain in place. Headteachers should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding any pupil with an education, health and care plan. Pre-empting that a pupil may commit a disciplinary offence, and thus not allowing a pupil to attend school, is an unlawful exclusion.

Ofsted will continue to consider exclusions, including the rates, patterns and reasons for exclusion, and to look for any evidence of off-rolling, which is never acceptable.

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