Covid-19 and Inclusive Education | May 2020 briefing
Further changes to UK Government legislation and their impact on Disabled people’s education, plus what ALLFIE is doing to avoid greater gaps in education emerging between Disabled and non-disabled people as a result.
On 30th April 2020 the UK Government announced temporary changes to the Children and Families Act 2014. This briefing explains how changes to law around Covid-19 effect Disabled people’s education and covers:
- Revised UK legislation and guidance
- What action ALLFIE is taking: an update on our work
For more information about Covid-19 legislation effects on Disabled people, please see our previous briefings:
Coronavirus Act 2020 and Disabled Learners | April briefing
Coronavirus and Disabled People’s Education | March briefing
Revised UK legislation and guidance
- Children and Families Act 2014
- Coronavirus Act 2020
- The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy
- The Department for Education’s Sponsored Online Platform
1. Children and Families Act 2014
The revised Children and Families Act 2014 includes modifications to securing education, health and care provision and timescales to complete Education, Health and Care Plans:
Children and Families Act 2014: EHC plans modification notice
Coronavirus Act 2020 Modification of section 42 of Children and Families Act 2014 Notice 2020
Securing Education Health and Care Provision
Local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups are required to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to secure the education, health and care provision set out in the individual’s education, health and care plan. The guidance includes an emphasis on local authorities to consider arranging provision in a ‘different manner’ in consultation with the child, young person and family. There is a list of examples of how SEND provision can be provided in a different manner, including having online teaching and therapy lessons and in-person support whilst the child or young person is not being educated within an educational setting such as a mainstream school or college.
The Children and Families Act modifies rather than disapplies section (42) for a fixed period of time from 1st May to 31st May 2020. These changes will be reviewed at the end of the month by the Secretary of State for Education, and extended if necessary.
Statutory timescales to complete the education, health and care assessment and plan
The statutory time scales for completing the education, health and care assessment and plan within 20 weeks has been suspended between May 1st to 26th September 2020. The child or young person’s assessment and plan should be completed as soon as ‘reasonably practicable’ or in line with ‘any timescales required’ in the regulations. Similarly, these changes will be reviewed at the end of the month by the Secretary of State for Education, and extended if necessary.
It is important to note that the Children and Families Act’s provisions have been modified rather than disapplied. This means that local authorities still have a duty to assess and produce an education, health and care plan and where required to arrange special education needs and health care provision in a different manner if necessary.
2. Coronavirus Act 2020
For more information about the Coronavirus Act and Disabled people’s education see our briefing: Coronavirus Act 2020 and Disabled Learners
The emergency Coronavirus Act 2020 will be reviewed in September, so it is vital that you keep letting us know whether local authorities and education providers are doing their best to uphold Disabled students’ rights to mainstream education.
3. The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy
On May 11th, the Government published its Covid-19 recovery strategy: Our Plan to Rebuild, including its steps on how the economy and our ordinary lives are to be returned to whilst managing the risk of Covid-19.
You may be concerned whether the Government’s plans to reopen schools, colleges and universities are safe and how they will reassert their responsibility to provide learning opportunities for all pupils from 1st June.
The Government says:
The rate of infection remains too high to allow the reopening of schools for all pupils yet. However, it is important that vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an Education, Health and Care plan and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by education providers or local authorities) and the children of critical workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted.
Schools should prepare to begin to open for more children from 1 June. The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. This aims to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers. Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils who have key exams next year, in support of their continued remote, home learning. The Government’s ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible, though this will be kept under review. The Department of Education will engage closely with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.
This plan does not seem to include guidance for when higher education institutions can start to open up safely for students. As soon as we know these details, we will upload guidance published by the Government.
The Government have also included an updated statement around protecting the most “clinically vulnerable” people. There is nothing included to specify how disabled children and adults will continue their education for the foreseeable future.
4. The Department for Education’s Sponsored Online Platform
To ensure that schools and pupils are able to continue to provide a structured curriculum, the Department for Education has commissioned the Oak Academy School to develop online lessons that teachers and parents can use to help their children’s learning during lockdown. When ALLFIE went onto the website, we were surprised to find that SEND factors were not considered. We could not find any of the following for Disabled pupils:
- Lessons that included BSL or audio description captioning
- Differentiation of the curriculum
- Alternative activities to online lessons
- Standard lessons that are computable with assisted technology
Parents have complained about the lack of inclusivity in the on-line curriculum provided by Oak Academy and expressed concern to ALLFIE. We are disappointed that, in a hurried response, the Oak Academy designed and uploaded a specialist and segregated curriculum aimed at children with more profound learning difficulties.
For more information, please read SEN Jungle’s post “What’s Wrong With Oak Academy’s Specialist Curriculum?”
What action ALLFIE is taking: an update on our work
- ALLFIE Survey and Select Committee Submissions
- Measuring Impact to changes in law
- Meeting with Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
- Meeting with the Department for Education
1. ALLFIE Survey and Select Committee Submissions
We want to thank everyone who completed our Covid-19 survey – this has given us great material to submit to the Education Select Committee, which was our main ask.
We are planning to send a written submission to the Education Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Government’s Covid-19 policies on school closures and their impact upon children and young people’s education. We will ensure that the experiences of Disabled school, college and university students and their families will be heard by the Education Select Committee.
Because we received so many great responses, we have also responded to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s Inquiry into the impact of the Government’s Covid-19 policies upon groups of people protected under the Equality Act 2010.
2. Measuring Impact to changes in law
Now that the Children and Families Act changes are in place, we will begin to see whether local authorities, schools and colleges will work together to ensure that Disabled children and young people are able to continue with their education at home. For Disabled students requiring reasonable adjustments there are no changes in law, but we want to continue to hear from you to find out what is going on.
3. Meeting with Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families
Thanks to all the support from our National Day of Action for inclusive education, which included handing in a 108,000 signature petition to both 10 Downing Street and the Department for Education, we had an invitation to meet with Vicky Ford MP, the minister responsible for disabled children and their families. We want to use this opportunity to:
- focus on the impact of Covid-19 virus outbreak is having upon disabled pupils and their families in accessing mainstream education
- to hold a wider strategic discussion about how the Government is going to develop a fully inclusive education system through implementing the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee’s observations and recommendations post Covid-19 pandemic.
4. Meeting with the Department for Education
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, we were due to meet the Department for Education to discuss our submission to the SEND review, together with how the Government is to develop a fully inclusive education system through implementing the UNCRPD Monitoring Committee’s observations and recommendations. We are still aiming for this meeting to take place at a later date.
ALLFIE Campaigns and Policy Coordinator