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Children with SEND
Advice for parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
Which children with SEND are in school? Why is it different in different places?
The Government advice is that ‘where possible’ children with Education Health and Care Plans may be considered for school places. The Government has also said it has a public health goal to have no more than 10% of pupils in school. We agree that this is the right approach, to protect the NHS and save lives. That’s why it is really important that if you are at home, and not a key worker, your child stays at home with you. It will not be possible to have 10% of all school groups on site, because of staff absence and staff who are self-isolating. Your head teacher will keep your child’s school open if it is safe and possible to do so, balancing the need to care for children who are key workers and who are vulnerable, with the need to reduce the spread of coronavirus by having the minimum number of children and staff on site. The situation will vary between schools as outbreaks are different and schools have varying numbers of staff who are pregnant, or with underlying health conditions, who need to be at home.
Can I decide to keep my child at home?
Yes. Many parents and carers are deciding to keep their child at home during this period. The school will try and do what it reasonably can to support you to provide ways to engage your child with learning and other activities. This is not education as normal, however, and the school will do the best in can to provide support, tips, websites and telephone numbers you can use if you are worried or want to reach the school. The NEU is supporting schools to find the best ways to stay in touch with parents/carers and will showcase good practice.
My child is missing routine and finding the change in structure really difficult.
Our members working with your child understand that many students need the routine that going to school provides, but will want to help you to keep them at home. This is likely to be the best way to protect them from catching or spreading the coronavirus. The NEU is advising head teachers to talk to staff about the best ways to provide remote support to parents/carers at home, including publishing contact numbers where parents/carers can access information and emotional support.
I am a key worker but my child’s special school says it might close?
Schools are doing everything they can to keep some provision open so that children of key workers can be looked after safely while their parents or carers work. The reality is that in some special schools it will be harder to maintain the ratios needed to look after children safely, especially if those who could be kept at home are sent to school. If it is not safe for students or staff, the head teacher will reluctantly have to close the school. Most heads want to avoid this, but public safety is the key consideration. If your special school is closing and you are a key worker, please ask your head whether the local authority can offer any alternative options.
I am struggling to cope. What can I do?
We know you are doing your very best. You are not alone and there are various sources of support. NEU members do not underestimate how difficult this period of school closure will be for many families with children who may find it difficult to understand the restrictions and/or have challenging behaviours which are made more acute by being stuck indoors. The union is working with Government to work out what respite arrangements local authorities might need to develop at speed. Every local authority should be working across all settings to co-ordinate information to parents and support heads. The NEU is calling on Government to give necessary additional support to local authorities to help families with SEND children through this crisis. Please reach out to your school and ask them to refer you to services that can help. If you feel isolated, please use the support signposted below.
How can I get more support?
We know that taking care of your child and trying to meet their needs and develop their interests can feel overwhelming and isolating. You may be missing the support or respite you usually get from the school, or from particular teachers or support staff with whom your child has built a good relationship. You may also have other children at home with you. You may need to try and get some paid work done at the same time as all the aspects of caring and parenting.
Everybody is finding this experience challenging and difficult, made harder by the fact that we don’t know how long schools will need to stay closed. If you are not already, this will be the time when you may need to seek peer support from other parents and carers. Every family is different. Every child is brilliant and unique. By sharing and supporting each other, and by contributing to the care and safety of others, we all gain strength, motivation and the ability to respond to our family’s needs.
These are organisations that can give you specialist advice, listen to your experiences and connect you to other parents and carers making the same journey. We will add to this section regularly, so please keep checking back.
- Special Needs Jungle – A really useful website for families which includes the latest information on SEND issues and blogs from experts.
- Contact – Free helpline number: 0808 808 3555. An excellent website (and free helpline) with up-to-date coronavirus advice for families with disabled children.
- Ambitious About Autism – Support and advice for families of children with autism.
- Child Autism UK Helpline – 01344 882 248. Support and advice for families of younger children with autism.
- Sense UK – Helpline: 0300 330 9256. The information and advice section gives accessible advice on the coronavirus for families of children with complex disabilities.
A number of organisations have closed Facebook support groups for families (search Facebook to join):
- Parent Support Group – support for parents and carers of teens and young adults with learning disabilities
- Parents and carers of children with ASD/Aspergers (UK)
- FIGS – Fighting Inequality for Girls on the Spectrum
- Not Fine in School: family support
- Children with Disabilities – parents, guardians, and carers support and advice
- Disabled Children’s Partnership
- Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) Support Group
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