Frequently asked questions
Help and Support
I’m worried I won’t be able to cope if schools are shut for a long time. Who should I call?
If you are worried about how you will support your child at home then please talk to the school in the first instance. If you have a child with an EHCP, you can also contact the relevant SEND case-worker.
The following organisations offer online support for young people’s mental health:
If you receive support from social care, please discuss any concerns with your social worker. If you want a social care assessment you can self-refer by calling the Brent Family Front Door on 0208 937 4300.
If you do not have an allocated social worker and you need support or advice on what services are available in your area to meet your child’s needs:
- Visit the local offer
- Contact the Brent Carer Forum by calling 0114 213 4912 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call the Interim Consultation & Support Line on 0208 937 4463
What is the government saying about whether children should be at home or at school?
The most recent scientific advice on how to further limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is clear. If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents/carers to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and asked schools to remain open only for those children who absolutely need to attend.
Schools are therefore being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable and children whose parents/carers are critical to the coronavirus response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
The schools are shut, but children with education, health and care (EHC) plans should continue to go. Is that right?
The government announced that schools will shut from Friday 20 March, and they will remain closed until further notice, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, which includes children with EHC plans. This does not include children with draft EHC plans, or those who are undergoing an assessment.
However, if children with EHC plans can be cared for at home during this time, they should be. The focus of schools at the moment is providing care to support key workers to work and easing the pressure on families with vulnerable children.
Do we know how long schools will close for?
No. The government’s announcement just stated that schools will be closed ‘until further notice’. There is expected to be an update from the government on Monday April 13 – as this will be 3 weeks after the start of the nation-wide “lock-down” when families were asked to stay at home.
My child has serious medical conditions and I am worried about sending them to school. How do I make a decision?
National guidance has been issued to help identify people whose health is more at risk if they contract coronavirus. The guidance defines those people who do have an increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus and those that are extremely vulnerable. People in the latter category will receive a letter of advice by 27 March 2020, and Brent council strongly advises people to follow the guidance given. If you are unsure about sending your child to school, please speak with the head teacher, school nurse or social worker so further advice can be given.
I’ve got a child with additional needs who is on SEN Support, do they get to stay at school?
No, the government’s announcement only included ongoing school provision for children of keyworker staff and vulnerable children. Their definition of vulnerable currently only includes those who have a social worker and those with an EHC plan. If your child is receiving SEN Support and has a social worker you may qualify, but otherwise your child should stop attending school.
Providing education at home
I’m worried we will be asked to provide some education or learning for our children whilst they are off school, but I wouldn’t know where to start.
Most schools have prepared and sent resources home with the children. This may be much harder for some children with learning difficulties or additional needs, especially if you have to work from home as well as look after your children. Ensure that you do not place too much pressure on yourself as this is going to be new for everyone.
For tips, advice and ideas about supporting your child at home, visit Brent’s coronavirus webpage.
Medical needs and home tuition
My child receives home tuition/tuition off site due to their medical needs - will this continue?
For Brent this provision is provided by Ashley College through Brent’s Targeted Inclusion Service. Ashley College has contacted all families affected by their site closure, and is providing individual support for all children who have been receiving home tuition due to their health needs.
Ashley College will coordinate with the mainstream school, to mirror the schools’ offer by providing packs of resources and guidance to help you continue their education at home. Ashley College will endeavour to provide 1:1 webcam lessons where the family has access to internet, but this will depend on its staffing levels.
This will also apply to those children with EHC plans registered as receiving education outside of school.
Due to the physical vulnerability of many of the home tuition pupils, face to face tuition will not take place. The over-riding health advice remains: if your child can be supported by you at home then they should be, in order to reduce the risk of them/you catching the virus.
Education, Health and Care Plan
How will my child’s school (special or mainstream) be able to look after my child with an EHC plan if most of the children are staying at home, or if the teaching staff are unable to come in?
Your child’s school will prioritise safety and safe-guarding of children and young people above all else, so if they don’t have enough staff, or need specialist advice they will contact the local authority, and/or cluster together with local schools and share resources. A significant majority of Brent schools have stayed open and remain open. Some are linked to other schools, within their own academy chain or within a local schools’ “cluster”, and if that is the case, the relevant school will advise you.
My child has an EHC plan but I don’t want them to go to school. Do they have to?
No. You have the right to make the decision that you do not want to send your child to school. Special schools, colleges and local authorities are advised to make assessments of the health and safeguarding considerations of pupils with an EHC plan on a case-by-case basis.
For more details see:
- guidance for schools and other educational settings
- Closure of educational settings - information for parents and carers
My child has an EHC plan but is in a private, independent, non-maintained school or nursery. Do they need to enable them to attend?
Yes, nurseries, private schools, sixth forms and further education (FE) colleges should also follow the government guidance. Again, there is a lot of detail for them to work through about how to implement an offer to these children. The government has said they will provide financial support for these settings as required. However, in the spirit of trying to reduce the spread of the virus, where at all possible, children with EHC plans that can be cared for at home, should be.
What about holidays – I heard that children (with an EHC plan) can still attend school then, is this right?
Possibly: the government’s guidance says, “Where possible, we would encourage settings to also look after key workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the holidays.” Once again, providers locally will be working out how they can do this. However, we do not envisage that this will involve high numbers, as families who have children with EHC plans would be expecting a natural break during the holidays. Remember, where possible children with EHC plans should be at home.
My child is due to start a special school, will that still go ahead?
Any planned new starters into special schools will be placed on hold for the time being. With reduced staffing and higher staff/pupil ratios, the local authority will not be able to transition children into new provision successfully. It is also important to reduce the number of children moving between sites. New start dates will be given when schools officially re-open. Any family which has a child or young person with an EHCP will have a SEND case-worker who can be contacted for further details
Can I request an EHCP plan for my child now?
Yes. The legal framework for assessment/young people remains the same. You should be in communication with your current school SENCO as they will co-ordinate the necessary documentation. Bear in mind that they may be away from school for the Easter holiday period, i.e. until Monday April 20th.
What is the situation if my child is due to have an annual review of their EHC plan?
It is possible that staffing capacity might mean that it is not helpful to hold your child’s annual review at this time (i.e. during the school’s closure). If schools already have a review scheduled and feel able to go ahead with it using virtual methods, e.g. teleconference, or otherwise, Brent council still has the Special Educational Needs Assessment (SENAS) team working to process assessments and annual reviews in the usual way.
My child has an EHC plan but as neither my husband nor I are key workers we have chosen to keep her at home, not wanting to take a spot that someone else may need more than us. Because of this, am I able to make a claim for a direct payment or claim part of her EHC plan funding? I believe that the school only receives a percentage based on her attendance, so we wondered if, as parents/carers, we would be eligible for a percentage during this period of shut down.
This isn’t how EHCP funding works: top up funding is committed to schools when children take up a place. It isn't issued on a daily rate dependent on attendance, as schools' outgoings are largely fixed, e.g. for teaching or support staff. The government has said schools should continue to receive their usual funding during this time, so as a local authority, Brent Council will not divert this allocated funding.
I have an appeal in progress to the SEND Tribunal. How will this be affected?
Face-to-face Tribunal hearings will now stop but the Tribunal will agree with you to hold the hearing on paper, by phone or by video conference. Tribunal staff will contact you. You should only call them if you have not heard at least two days before your hearing date.
The Tribunal service statement on 19 March 2020 says:
“Decisions about the education of children and young people are vitally important and the Tribunal is making every effort to conclude as many appeals and claims as possible. The Tribunal are already aware of parents/carers, young people, local authority representatives and witnesses who are self-isolating and social distancing, putting pressure on all services at this unprecedented time. Following today’s announcement from the Senior President of Tribunals, all hearings in the First-tier Tribunal Special Educational Needs and Disability will move away from face-to-face hearings and make use of the technology available.
“From Monday 23 March 2020, the Tribunal will use technology to enable hearings to proceed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearings will be on paper or by telephone and where possible video, where the technology permits. The arrangements for your hearing will be confirmed at least two days before the date on which your hearing is listed, and it would assist if you could check whether you are able to access telephone and internet services either in your home or locally. You will not be required to travel to the hearing venue if you have either telephone or internet video facilities.
“If parties do not have a reliable telephone or internet service available in their homes, it may be possible to arrange to use the IT equipment or telephones at your nearest Courts and Tribunals hearing venue. There is no need to contact the Tribunal to obtain the details as the administrative team are working to issue those details to you in time for your hearing.
“Please do not contact the Tribunal helpline because at present, the Tribunal’s own resources are reduced due to self-isolation and social distancing and it is at the point two days before your hearing, if you haven’t received correspondence from the Tribunal that you should contact the office at email@example.com.”