3rd August 2020 – More on returning to school

Welcome to our latest HPCI parent network update.  This one focuses on government guidance and funding around returning to school.  In this email we cover:

  • Reasonable endeavours and EHC plans
  • Herts County Council position on the return to school and attendance fines
  • Government announcement of Covid funding for schools – how does that work?

Reasonable endeavours and EHC plans – the government relaxed the legal requirements to provide all the provision in children and young people’s EHC plans during the summer term.  This requirement expired on the 31st July and so, when those with an EHC plan return to school or college in September the provision set out in the plan must be delivered, including therapies.
The relaxing of the time lines around certain parts of the EHC process continues until 25th September by which time the government will have decided whether to extend it further.

HCC (Herts County Council) statement to schools around the return to school and attendance fines
In the government’s initial return to school statement there was quite an emphasis on attendance fines for parents whose children did not return to school.  This has caused concern amongst many parents of children with SEND both locally and nationally. These concerns have been fed back to the DfE (Department for Education) at national level and locally.  HPCI raised this issue with HCC which has sent a communication to schools on attendance which they have shared with us.  At HPCI we believe it is vital that parents are aware of what steps and direction HCC has communicated to schools to help you work with your child’s education setting.  Below, in italics, are the most relevant extracts from the original HCC communication:

We (HCC) do not envisage that use of penalty notices to enforce attendance where absence is related to Covid-19 will be appropriate in the majority of cases in the autumn term; and ask you identify pupils who are reluctant or anxious about returning, and to develop plans for those pupils who have been persistently absent before or not engaged in education during the pandemic. These plans should/could include the use of existing pastoral support, catch up and pupil premium funding and other services to support attendance. Schools should also contact their Local Authority Attendance Officer early on where you have concerns for advice, guidance and support on this matter.
In cases where a social worker is working with the family the social worker should also be contacted to notify of non-school attendance.
The usual statutory tools will be available to our schools and we ask that, where consideration is being given to us of a penalty notice by colleagues, a conversation take place between school senior leadership team and the Local Authority Attendance Team so that all relevant intelligence is shared and all possible avenues of support explored, prior to any application being submitted. Any penalty notice application that is received from school without a conversation with the Local Authority Attendance Team will not be processed.
Returning children especially the most vulnerable and those with SEND to school is vital to help us address the longer-term impact of the pandemic on children’s education, wellbeing, and wider development. We know you will be putting in plans to re-engage pupils and re-establish relationships to overcome barriers to attendance, and to help them transition back. In light of the DfE guidance, we are asking you to review your risk assessments for pupils with EHCPs and where you consider there are barriers to attendance to involve the HCC SEND team in supporting you.
A small number of pupils will still be unable to attend in line with public health advice. Where a pupil is unable to attend school because they are complying with clinical and/or public health advice, we expect schools to be able to immediately offer them access to remote education. Schools should monitor engagement with this activity. Where children are not able to attend school as parents are following clinical and/or public health advice, absence will not be penalised.

So parents if, in the Autumn term, you find yourself in a situation where your child’s lack of attendance at school (as a result of the Covid situation) is causing concern to the school and they are talking about issuing you with a penalty notice then you can ask them if they have done all that is outlined in italics above.  For more support and information you can approach the SENDIASS service which has a section on it’s website about Attendance and Exclusions along with contact details.  Their phone line 01992 555847 operates term time Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm and also in the school holidays on reduced hours.
Again – we suggest that if you are worried about how your child has reacted to the pandemic and how that might affect them returning to school then please contact your school before the start of term to discuss it.

Government Catch Up Funding to schools
The guidance Catch up funding for schools was released by the DfE on 16th July.  Colleges have not been allocated any catch-up funding.
Per pupil the amounts are £80 in mainstream and £240 in specialist settings (it is more because of the complexity of those pupils needs). For an average 200 pupil mainstream primary school this is £16,000 and for an average secondary mainstream of 1000 pupils this is £80,000.
Schools will be given the funding directly in 3 termly amounts and it is up to the school to decide and plan how best to spend it to meet the catch-up needs of their pupils.  The money could be spent on extra tuition, therapies or extra training for staff to help them to support pupils.
This money is allocated directly to schools and the HCC will not be receiving any of this catch-up funding.  If you want to know how your child’s school plans to spend this money then ask them directly in September.  Involving the pupils and parents in the discussion about what is needed would be best practice.  HCC will issue a clear statement about its position on this to schools in September.
Ofsted will be visiting some schools in the Autumn Term (but not grading them) and will specifically look at how each of these schools is using this extra funding.