The Welsh Government has produced new Guidance for supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged learners returning to school for the new autumn term.
This guidance provides advice and expectations for local authorities, schools and settings (which include learning centres and work-based learning), as well as other partner agencies for the support they provide for vulnerable and disadvantaged learners for a range of scenarios. The WG has chosen to consider a wide range of children within this group:
- learners with special educational needs (SEN)
- learners from minority ethnic groups who have English or Welsh as an additional language (EAL/WAL)
- care-experienced children, including looked after children
- learners educated other than at school (EOTAS)
- children of refugees and asylum seekers
- Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children
- learners eligible for free school meals (eFSM)
- young carers
- children at risk of harm, abuse or neglect.
The guidance covers Education other than at school (EOTAS), Special educational needs (SEN), Transport, Young carers and gives detailed information on preparations from September 2020, including operational guidance and information on preparing for a further lockdown or blended learning approach if that became necessary.
Learners with Special Educational Needs
Unlike in England, the Welsh Government chose not to use emergency powers to change the law on Special Educational needs in Wales in order to relax the statutory duties of local authorities in respect of special educational needs (SEN).
The statutory duties of local authorities, in respect of SEN in Wales are unchanged.
The duties of local authorities arising from the Education Act 1996 and the Education (Special Educational Needs) Regulations (Wales) 2002 remain in force, and the Special Education Needs Code of Practice for Wales 2002 still applies.
The local authority still has a duty to arrange the special educational provision specified in the statement.
Learners with statements of SEN must continue to have their needs met. Local authorities must ensure that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made by the school or setting.
Allied health professionals, such as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, may have been using the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service rather than meeting clients face-to-face during the lockdown. However, this support should be able to return to face-to-face from September 2020 subject to appropriate risk assessment.
Local authorities, schools and settings must continue to ensure the individual needs of learners are fully considered and that the needs of individual learners remains the primary consideration.
Provision too must be based on individual need. It is not appropriate to apply ‘blanket policies’.
The guidance says that
“Local authorities, schools and settings must be mindful not to restrict the access to professionals that learners with SEN may benefit from. To do so could be a breach of statutory SEN duties”.
There is a clear expectation that services for learners with SEN must be maintained.
Reviewing the statement of SEN
The duty on local authorities to review statements of SEN has not changed. Statements of SEN are reviewed at least annually.
The SEN statutory assessment process
The duties of local authorities and schools and settings in relation to statutory assessment remain in place as do the timelines.
Learners with individual development plans (IDPs) or individual education plans
The new additional learning needs (ALN) system, which involves learners with ALN having individual development plans (IDPs), is not yet in force. Some local authorities and schools and settings have begun to use IDPs, although statutory requirements relating to them do not yet apply. Some local authorities have, however, prepared IDPs with the agreements of parents/carers.
Many learners with SEN do not have statements. They should have an individual education plan (IEP). Both IEPs and IDPs should outline the needs of the learner and what steps the school will take to meet those needs.
A mainstream maintained school’s governing body must use their best endeavours to secure the special educational provision required by a learner with SEN
Rights to appeal decision regarding SEN
Parents/carers and learners still have the same rights of appeal. In the first instance, parents/carers should seek to resolve concerns directly with the school and/or local authority. Local authorities are obliged to make arrangements for parent partnership services. These provide parents/carers with advice and information relating to SEN. In addition, local authorities must make arrangements for disagreement avoidance and resolution services and independent advocacy services.
- School transport guidance to provide greater clarity.
- Revised detail on food in school and catering arrangements to provide further clarification.
- Self-isolation advice and Track Trace Protect (TTP) advice updated to reflect the change in self isolation from 7 to 10 days in line with the UK.