Special Educational Needs: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd July 2021.

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Photo of Daisy Cooper Daisy Cooper Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education), Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans the Government has to support SEND pupils with (a) educational skills catch-up and (b) health and wellbeing needs due to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing is a priority for this government. We are committed to helping all pupils, including those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in all education settings, make up education lost as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since June 2020, we have announced more than £3 billion of additional funding to support education recovery in schools, colleges and early years settings – this will have a material impact in closing gaps that have emerged. Schools will continue to be able to access a package of support from September 2021. The package provides support to children aged 2-19 in schools, 16-19 providers and early years. It expands our reforms in two areas where the evidence is clear that our investment will have significant impact: high quality tutoring targeted at those that need it most and high-quality training for teachers. The one-off Recovery Premium for state-funded schools for 2021/22 will further help schools to provide their disadvantaged pupils with a boost to academic and pastoral support. This is in addition to the £650 million catch-up premium shared across state-funded schools over the 2020/21 academic year, to put the right catch-up and pastoral support in place. While education settings cannot provide specialist clinical care, the support schools and colleges are providing to their pupils following the return to face-to-face education should include time devoted to supporting mental health and wellbeing, which will play a fundamental part in supporting recovery.

We have consistently prioritised children who attend specialist settings by providing additional uplifts both in the Catch-up Premium this academic year and the Recovery Premium for the next academic year, in recognition of the significantly higher per pupil costs they face. In addition, special schools will receive additional funding to ensure these settings can provide 1:1 tutoring for their pupils. Children will further benefit from additional funding to ensure that teachers in schools and early years settings are able to access high quality training and professional development. We know that high quality teaching is the best way to support all students, including those with SEND.

We are working with education settings, the relevant Royal Colleges and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to ensure that health and wellbeing issues for SEND pupils are prioritised. DHSC have identified provision for children and young people with SEND in their NHS recovery planning. The COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan, published in March 2021, references various areas of support. £31 million will be used to address particular challenges faced by individuals, including £3 million for community respite services.

The Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme, which provides healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children, has been expanded to every local authority across England this year – backed by up to £220 million. Our guidance is clear that the provision should be inclusive and accessible. We will continue to support local authorities to deliver services that meet the needs of children and young people with SEND. Education, health and care plan quality and timeliness is something we have been monitoring through the COVID-19 outbreak and continue to do so, and we provided £40.8 million for the Family Fund in 2020-21 to support over 90,000 families on low incomes raising children with disabilities or serious illnesses. This included £13.5 million to specifically respond to needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

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