28th August 2020 – Returning to school or college

Returning to education is nearly here for Hertfordshire children and young people.  Education is vital for our children’s future and our society as a whole.  However, during this pandemic, it is not an easy or straightforward return.
Over the last few months HPCI has focused on giving our parent network relevant and up to date information in these emails and also via our social media.  Alongside this we have worked with Hertfordshire’s education, social care, health and transport services to make sure that they send out the right sort of information for parents and carers that is straight forward and easily understood.
This email contains some new things and also reminds you of some of the other key messages sent out over the last few weeks.  Get comfy as this is quite a long email!

New stuff

  1. HCC’s Returning to School/College webpage  HCC Returning to School

This page covers the safety of returning to school, helping children with anxiety, Local Outbreaks Plan, Home to School Transport and Free School Meals.  It is not SEND specific.

  1. SENDIASS – Returning to School Booklet – download HERE

Herts SENDIASS service has produced this booklet in collaboration with HPCI to help families return to school and college.  Its key themes are: Managing Anxiety and Wellbeing, Transition Support, Social Distancing and PPE, Changes to Provision and Catching up on education.  The SENDIASS phone line is open to take your calls Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm.  They cover education, health and social care services.

  1. Webinars – a new initiative from HPCI.

The pandemic has meant that we have all had to adapt and change the way we do things.  HPCI is not currently able to hold meetings or events and so have brought forward our plans to offer webinars.  Webinars are a talk/presentation over the internet and we are working with SENDIASS and others to bring webinars to parents on a number of SEND related topics.  Most will be live webinars which are recorded and available afterwards on our website.  This will make the information in the webinars available to a much wider group of parents than through events alone. Over the summer we have becpme familiar with the technology and had a practice.
The first one is in mid-September led by SENDIASS on the subject of Annual Reviews.

  1. Taking the temperature

Over the coming weeks and term HPCI will be looking to find out how things are going for families in the return to education and other issues. So keep your eye out for any online or Facebook surveys we may carry out.  We don’t champion individual cases but see what the common issues or themes are and take them to decision makers to find solutions.

Face masks
This has become an increasingly hot topic in the return to school debate and we thought it would be good to clarify things. Face masks are not recommended for use in primary school by pupils or staff except staff carrying out some types of personal care. Schools do have the discretion to require face-coverings in communal areas if they believe that it is right in their particular circumstances for staff and students in Year 7 or above.  This should only be when moving around the school eg in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain. It will not be necessary to wear them in the classroom, where protective measures mean that risks are lowered, and they can inhibit learning. It is important that staff and students clean their hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser before and after touching their face or their face-covering. Face-coverings should be kept securely in a bag when not in use.
Where face masks are compulsory eg shops and public transport there are exemptions for those with certain health conditions or disabilities.You can find more information on that and download free face mask exemption cards HERE .
HPCI has asked HCC to remind schools of the guidance on face masks along with the exemptions and their responsibilities under the Equalities Act. We raised concerns that schools that insist on pupils wearing face masks could harm the return to school of pupils with SEND and affect their ability to learn. The concern is particularly around those with hearing impairments, speech, language and communication needs, learning disabilities and sensory issues.  It is also clear that these schools could be challenged under the Equalities Act.
HCC’s Public Health service has developed a presentation for schools and colleges around the appropriate usage and wearing of face masks which is being sent to them all.
Please contact HPCI directly if your child’s education is being adversely affected by a school insisting on them wearing a face mask.

Catch up Funding for Schools
ALL schools will receive this directly from the Department of Education.  £80 per pupil in mainstream schools and £240 per pupil in special schools.  Each school will decide how to use it and you can ask your school how it plans to spend it.  It could go on extra tuition, therapies or training for staff.

EHC Plans and reasonable endeavours
From the 1st August all the provision laid out in your child’s EHC plan should be provided as reasonable endeavours ended on 31st July. There may have to be some adaptations to fit with coronavirus safety guidance.  The relaxation around timescales for some parts of the EHC process finishes on the 25th September.
Annual Reviews need to take place and can be done either virtually or socially distanced in school depending on the school and family.

Approach to attendance fines in Herts
We gave detailed information on Hertfordshire’s approach in our email of 3rd August which is too long to be re-produced here but can be found on our website under the Covid news tab HERE

Personal Transport Budgets
For those of you who are receiving SEND home to school transport you can receive mileage payments for 4 journeys a day taking your child to and from school.  Should you wish to take up this option then contact the Transport department via email at: schooltransport@hertfordshire.gov.uk and mark your email Mileage Reimbursement.

Mainstream schools Home to School Transport – there are currently about 400 missing applications for transport to mainstream schools from September – if you have a child entitled to that and have not yet applied then please do so see the information at: TRANSPORT