consultations NNPCF work SEND Review

NNPCF work to improve accountability in the SEND system

One of the four priority areas for the NNPCF this year is to improve the accountability across the SEND system – to ensure that those bodies with responsibilities to support children and young people with SEND actually deliver what they are required to (please see the presentation at our AGM in March for the other priorities Microsoft PowerPoint – AGM slides 20210315 (

We are actively working to improve this accountability across three separate projects:

The Single Route of Redress

For the last 3 years, a national trial has been running that allows the SEND tribunal to make non-binding judgements on health and social care services, if there is also a valid educational concern. The evaluation period for the trial has now ended and Ministers are due to make a decision about whether to mainstream the trial powers of the tribunal. The trial period itself ends on the 31 August 2021.

The NNPCF has been clear that we would like to see this trial made permanent and has been participating in meetings with the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice. Although not possible at present, we would also like to see the powers of the tribunal extended to make binding recommendations on health and social care in the future.

You can see the quarterly updates from the single route of redress national trial here Newsletters – Mott MacDonald (

Local area inspections

Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission have been looking at how the next round of local area inspections should be structured. It is clear that the focus will need to move from an implementation of the SEND reforms onto an assessment of how well local areas are meeting the needs of CYP with SEND and improving outcomes. As a part of this we would like to see the inspectorate focus on things such as how well do local education, health and care plan and deliver services together, how SEND money is spent in the system, early

intervention, inclusion in mainstream schools and coproduction with families and parent carer forums.

We are also pleased to see that the current round of local area inspection are due to resume. See the announcement and guidance from Ofsted. Ofsted: coronavirus (COVID-19) rolling update – GOV.UK (

The SEND review

We also believe that legislative and regulatory changes to the SEND system are required to improve accountability. We have shared these ideas with the SEND review team. These include:

· A consistent national definition of services that available to families with some minimum standards

· Time limits lined for delivery of services

· Guidance on who pays for what across the system

· More transparency on how money is spent

· Gather smarter statistics to show where services are not meeting standards

You can see more on the input we have put into the SEND review in our presentation to the joint NNPCF / Contact conference in March.

consultations Social Care

NNPCF input into children’s social care review

In January, the government announced a review into children’s social care. Independent review of children’s social care – GOV.UK (

The NNPCF have been working with the review team to ensure the voice of parent carer forums is heard and that the review understands and considers the unique challenges faced by our families.

NNPCF co-chairs Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia met with the officials leading the review in March. In our meeting, we described the work of parent carer forums and our unique role in representing the experiences of families and in coproducing improved outcomes. We also raised five issues that we wanted to make sure that the review considered:

  1. Support not safeguarding” – Much of the social care system is focussed on safeguarding and the approaches and systems are too often based in this model. CYP with SEND and their families need support from the social care system and the bias towards safeguarding means that families slip through the net and further families are reluctant to engage with social care.
  2. Input into EHCPs – PCFs report that social care input into EHCPs remains patchy- often there is no input or that input is very superficial.
  3. Consistency and criteria – there is a postcode lottery for social care services. Some areas recognise children with SEND and children in need, most do not; many areas have different (and high) thresholds for services.
  4. Availability of services – many social care services that families would benefit from are simply not available to too many. Thresholds and cuts mean that respite care, residential care and short breaks are in short supply. Children’s social care must be prioritised and funded properly.
  5. Prioritisation with the NHS integrated care systems – we must ensure that children’s social care is included in plans being developed by the new integrated care systems.

We have arranged a series of engagement events with the social care team. These include:

  • Attendance at regional NNPCF meetings in the Yorkshire and Humber and London regions to hear directly from PCFs
  • Joining the East of England and South West SEND regional leads meeting
  • Attending an NNPCF steering group meeting in June
  • Josh MacAllister, the independent chair of the review, will be meeting with the NNPCF co-chairs

After these and other engagement events, the review plans to publish a “case for change” in early June. Josh MacAllister has agreed to run a webinar for PCFs to brief them on the key areas of focus for the review and how the experiences of CYP with SEND are reflected in their agenda.

The review is also working with our partners at Contact and the Disabled Children’s Partnership to meet with a roundtable of charities and individual parents to hear their stories.

We will keep you informed of our work and will share details of the webinar with Josh once they have been finalised.

Covid-19 NNPCF work

Covid 19 – the medium and long term impact, risks and opportunities for children and young people with SEND


The immediate impact of Covid 19 and the response to the virus have been well documented – missing school, difficulty in accessing medical services, and the impact of lockdowns have all had a detrimental impact upon many children and young people ranging from academic, social, emotional, and physical implications. It is well understood howmany of these impacts on children and young people with SEND have been exacerbated by the additional challenges they and their families face. These are very real and have been recorded by Parent Carer Forums during the pandemic. NNPCF steering group members have been working closely with the government and NHS to escalate and address these concerns[1]

However, many of the medium and long term impacts of Covid 19 and the response to the virus have not yet been felt or understood. Reflecting on feedback from our 151 member forums, the NNPCF steering group has started to review the medium and longer term risks and opportunities the last year has presented for children and young people with SEND and their families. Looking beyond what is already well documented, we have attempted to focus on what is different about the experience of CYP with SEND. We have compiled a list of what can be done in the wake of the pandemic to mitigate these, as yet, unseen risks and take advantage of some of the longer term opportunities.

[1] See the NNPCF website, news section for our frequent updates on our work during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Key findings

  • Catch up

Whilst the government has made significant additional funds available for catch up and to compensate for lost time, it will be very difficult to implement effectively for CYP with SEND. Many of the resources and skills SEND services rely upon (e.g. CAMHS, SALT, OT, Ed Pyschs) were already scarce before the pandemic with long delays and waiting lists. As we recover, these pressures are likely to grow. Therefore, creative solutions coproduced with families and PCFs are required to meet the additional demand for these resources that catch up will need. Families have expressed concerns that for many the quality of annual reviews were already poor prior to the pandemic and many fear that in the absence of recent assessments or contact they will suffer further.

  • New harms

As well as lost time, we are also aware that many CYP with SEND may have suffered new harms – these may result in new conditions or needs being evident. There needs to be an increased focus on early intervention to address these concerns before they escalate. In addition, we are mindful that issues may not manifest themselves in obvious ways – for example, with trauma or increased anxiety presenting as behaviours that challenge. Schools and services must be alive to these often-hidden harms and respond accordingly.

  • Remote learning

Whilst the majority of CYP with SEND found remote learning very challenging, a minority prospered. For some, the absence of the stresses of a school environment meant they were able to learn more effectively. We would like to explore how a more blended approach might benefit these children and young people as a reasonable adjustment. However, a note of caution – this should not be confused with part time timetables, home education or off-rolling. Pupils should be able to access the full curriculum but in a reasonably adjusted way that works for them. We are aware this will pose challenges for schools but would like to build on some of the excellent innovative practice in some areas to explore how it could be built upon.

The quality of remote learning will continue to be important if children need to isolate following positive covid tests or if further lockdowns are necessary as a result of further waves of infection.

  • Elective Home Education

There has been an increase in the numbers of families choosing to home educate their children. We support the right of any family to make this choice, however, need to ensure that parent carers are making fully informed decisions about the implications of this and that we do not see the same children (many of whom may have SEND) seeking re-entry into school in a few months. We are concerned that some families do not understand that the remote support and online curriculums from schools will not be available if the chose to home educate.

  • Use of remote technology

The acceleration of remote technology has been welcomed by families in many respects. The avoidance of waiting times, travel times, and the ability to participate in sessions that were previously not accessible has meant families are keen to continue remote appointments in some cases. This may not always be possible or appropriate and must be agreed in coproduction with families. We are also aware of the barriers families can face when accessing remote appointments and meetings. It is essential that all decisions to continue or move towards remote access are made with the families and explore all the potential risks and challenges that may present barriers to access and inclusion, with reasonable adjustments being available where required. There is ongoing work within some regions exploring the benefits and challenges of digitalisation of appointments that would be helpful to explore further.

  • Transitions

We have seen increased concerns from Parent Carer Forums about the risks of transitions. Because of lost time, many CYP with SEND are ill prepared for important changes (e.g., changing setting, leaving education, turning 25, and ceasing an EHCP). Children and young people who are not ready for a change are more likely to fail and this may not happen immediately but in months or years’ time. A range of coproduced measures (from extra time and effort from both settings to repeating years) should be available to families to support them.

  • Mental health

The potential toll the response to Covid 19 has had on children’s mental health has been well publicised including the compound impact on those with SEND. We welcome the focus on children, young people, SEND, learning disability, and autism in the government’s mental health recovery plan. The need for a joined-up system wide approach is understood by all. Parent Carer Forums value being part of conversations exploring local approaches that take into consideration the nuanced needs of the SEND community in respect of mental wellbeing and mental health.

  • Vaccinations of carers

The vaccination of carers has led to some identification of opportunities to improve record keeping and services to families with SEND. In particular, records of those performing the role of the carer have improved as well as records of those with a learning disability or autism. This presents the opportunity to better support these families, particularly through a primary care setting through things such as learning disability health checks. We are pleased to see the positive conversations this has stimulated but are hearing from Parent Carer Forums there is still a long way to go in establishing fully fit for purpose records and registers locally. We also see the advantages these discussions present in the improvement of local data systems, and specifically Joint Strategic Needs Analysis records.

  • Employment opportunities

Many employment opportunities traditionally available to young people with SEND in sectors such as retail and hospitality have been impacted by the pandemic. In addition, many young people have not been able to complete training or courses aimed at supporting them into employment. Conversely, other sectors such as logistics and care have seen some growth. We welcome the recent announcements on supported internships and ask that any government employment recovery plans should include specific support and strategies for young people with SEND.

  1. Individual and Strategic coproduction

We have referred to the importance of individual coproduction with families several times in this document. Where communication with families was open, transparent, and families were involved in decisions about changes to services for their child/young person, satisfaction was higher and the impact on children, young people, and their families was mitigated. Through the pandemic, government and NHS guidance consistently stressed the importance of coproduction time and time again but sadly it did not always happen at a time when it was more important than ever. It is essential the culture of coproduction is emphasised by all at every opportunity.

The pandemic has also seen more areas recognise the contribution and importance of Parent Carer Forums. As the Ofsted / CQC local area SEND interim visits in Autumn 2020 highlighted, those areas that coproduced effectively, responded to the pandemic most effectively. It is essential we learn the lessons and reflect the importance of strategic coproduction in the output from the SEND review, NHS Long Term Plan, and new local area joint inspection plans.

Appendix – detailed analysis

The impact of missed support  

The impact that missed school, therapies and appointments has had on our children.
There is great awareness of the impact of lost time on all children, including those with SEND. The very balanced focus of the government’s catch up planning had reflected the need to identify the holistic impact of lost time on children. We are pleased that the additional monies made available explicitly focus on enrichment and well being “catch up” as well as academic focus.The delivery of this catch up is going to be difficult in many respects for children and young people with SEND. In particular, disciplines such as CAHMS, SALT, OT and EP services were very stretched prior to covid and it is unlikely that there are enough resources to be able to “catch up”. As such, new and innovative models of delivery will need to be developed might include more group sessions, training and support for parents teachers and TAs, use of online resources and better use of community resources such as the voluntary sector. Clearly, this is only appropriate for some services – for example, missed operations cannot be delivered in alternative ways.

Local authorities, schools, CCGS and providers should actively partner with parents and parent carer forums to understand individual and local needs and develop innovative services to support catch up. Effective coproduction is critical to the recovery.  
New harms  

As well as “lost time”, it is clear that new harm has been done to many children including those with SEND. This may include new conditions developing but also be expressed through increased anxiety and more challenging behaviour.
 It may be some time before the “new harms” resulting from Covid 19 become apparent.   Evidence shows that referrals in some areas are already increasing but anecdotal evidence suggests that we may see a surge following the September return to school.  

It is important the system is prepared for new harms that may emerge. This might include: An increased focus on early help to identify and respond to concerns quickly to prevent them escalatingA recognition that the “new harms” may manifest themselves as anxiety, mental health or behavioural concerns. It is critical that a joined up approach is taken and any issues are not exacerbated by addressing the symptom (e.g. behaviour) rather than the root cause.A redoubling of efforts to coproduce solutions with families and parent carer forums.
Remote learning  

Remote learning was very challenging for the majority of CYP with SEND. A minority, have however, prospered. What can we learn from this?
For a small cohort of CYP with SEND, remote learning has worked very well. The absence of some of anxieties of a social environment and a changing physical setting has been beneficial to some CYP with ASD, SEMH and sensory needs.

Many families have reported that their CYP have done their best work whilst at home. In some cases, the change of environment has challenged the received wisdom about what a CYP can achieve – perceived limitations have been removed and new opportunities have become available.

Many families report that they are more engaged in their child’s learning and are more aware of the support they need to learn.

In addition many families have reported that their CYP has been happier, less anxious and exhibited fewer behavioural issues whilst learning from home.

The increased availability and quality of remote learning resources (e.g. BBC bitesize and Oak academy) has increased the opportunity for remote learning.

We would like to work with the DfE to explore how a more blended learning approach could be effectively used to support some CYP. For particular cohort, a blended learning offer might form a very effective reasonable adjustment.  

Potential collateral benefits would include reduced school exclusions, improved academic performance and better preparation for a word of work which may increasingly become based on remote or blended working.    
Our membership reports that remote learning was beneficial to a minority of children with SEND. The majority did not prosper and benefit most from being in school.   Moreover, PCFs have reported that there has been a huge variation in the quality of remote learning. Some schools have provided things such as specialist materials, support from specialist teachers, pre learning,1:1 time when appropriate and differentiated work. Many, however, did not, further disadvantaging  CYP with SEND.  

There are significant risks for remote learning from the point of view of the CYP and family:
Blended learning should not be confused with home schooling and part time timetables. CYP should be offered a full curriculum, some of it delivered to them whilst at home.
Strain on families – supporting blended learning may present an additional and unsustainable burden on parent carers. Some schools did implement innovative and effective ways of supporting SEND learners at home such as use of TAs, pre-learning support for parent carers, use of break out rooms. This support should form a part of any blended learning package.
Any blended learning approach must be developed in coproduction with families and CYP.
The risks of increased isolation, social exclusion and even bullying may need to be considered. There may be safeguarding concerns around some families.

We also appreciate that it may be difficult from a school resourcing point of view to support a physical and virtual learning offer at the same time  

We would like to work with the DfE to put in place some guidance on what constitutes a minimum standard for CYP with SEND in any blended learning offer. This would include safeguards to ensure it was used only when it was the best solution for the CYP and was developed in coproduction with them and their family.    
Individual Coproduction  

Coproduction with parents was very varied in many instances with some schools and settings doing it well whilst others hardly communicated at all with families.
Risk assessments, where they have been done well have been welcomed by families. Families have felt heard in these processes and many have improved trust between families and schools. These conversations have enabled schools to break down barriers with families that may have existed for some time and allowed a better understanding of what life is really like for families.  

Moreover, schools have started to recognise parents as the experts in their children. Schools have seen new value of having good quality relationships with families.  

Some characteristics of good risk assessments include:
-A clear explanation what the process is and what it entails
-Focussed on the needs of the child, not the schoolOpen honest conversation
-An equal and reciprocal relationship with families  

The experience of a good risk assessment is offers a template for improving individual coproduction with families. The SEND review offers an opportunity to enshrine some of these best practices into a new, clearer definition and practice of good coproduction.    
Many families felt great frustration as many services they were entitled to or relied upon were withdrawn during parts of the covid 19 response. Often these changes were made unilaterally with little or no discussion or understanding of the impact that this would have on families. It felt as if coproduction was optional at times.  

In many cases, education risk assessments were not done well. Too often, we heard that schools did not explain to families what they were doing and put their own risks first above that of the child. Risk assessments were often seen through a safeguarding lens -with vulnerable children not being offered places at school unless it was deemed that they were not safe at home.  

In these instances trust between families and services (including schools) has been eroded  

There may be some work to be done in repairing the damage to trust and relationships between families and services. The NNPCF have asked for an increased focus on developing the culture and practice of coproduction across the SEND system through the SEND review, this may be more important than ever.
Strategic coproduction  

Likewise, there was a huge variation in the extent and quality of strategic coproduction with parent carer forums during the pandemic. Those that did it well, responded more effectively to the needs of families.
The crisis has brought home the value and impact of parent carer forums. More people are aware of PCFs and the importance of coproduction. PCFs report that they have been involved in more meaningful strategic coproduction than ever before, gathering information, interpreting the impact of changes on families, coproducing solutions and providing feedback.  

Remote working has enabled improved coproduction – it is often more parent friendly and means PCFs can do more.  

It is essential that we consolidate the gains made in strategic coproduction through the covid 19 crisis and translate them into wider areas of working. Again, the SEND review, the NHS long term plan and the new ofsted / CQC local area inspection framework  offer an opportunities to embed improved coproduction through better definition, guidance, sharing of best practice and training.    
The volume and level of work required from PCFs have increased dramatically. Many are reporting issues with burnout and concerns about sustainability.  

Coproduction has not been universally good.  Where it has been poor historically, relationships have often further deteriorated. When managing a crisis, many local areas, commissioners and service providers have simply forgotten to coproduce.  

A continued focus on the importance of coproduction is required through the SEND review, the NHS LTP and the new local area inspection framework.  
Use of technology to support CYP with SEND   Remote therapy / medical appointments/ remote working  

Remote delivery of services accelerated massively over the last year. In many cases this has been well received by families but does have some pitfalls and limitations.  
The increased use of technology has been welcomed by most families.

Benefits include:
-Saving time travelling and waiting for physical appointments that can be conducted remotely.
-Parents have been more engaged in allied therapy sessions – they can see and participate in remote sessions when physical sessions were often run 1:1
-It has been easier to get more people to engage in activities (e.g. annual reviews) because they do not have to travel.  

Guidelines around how and when remote technology can be used should be developed – these should aim to preserve the benefits whilst guarding against some of the risks and disadvantages.  
Not all interactions can be effectively conducted remotely. Some appointments do need to be face to face – e.g. physical tests and observations, some medication reviews, for families where there may be safeguarding concerns.  

Forums have also reported that the past year has highlighted the digital divide with access to technology being a barrier to services. In addition, gaps in the ability of CYP and families to use technology (e.g. not being able to type / being physically disabled) has further disadvantaged some of the most vulnerable. .    
Mental health  

There has been an increased focus and awareness of mental health issues. The implications for those with SEND have not yet been fully understood or felt.
The crisis has definitely raised awareness of More openness / conversations / awareness of mental health.      The mental health impact of covid 19 on all CYP has been well documented. trauma, isolation, loss and increase in anxiety.

In particular, those with SEND have experienced a wide range of potential mental health impacts such as heightened fear of C19 amongst some children, wearing (or not wearing) masks, testing and vaccines increases in isolation, OCD and eating disorders. In many cases covid conditions have accentuated existing issues.    

The crisis has also highlighted how fragile mental health services are for many of our children. Many areas were already seeing long waiting times for services  – these have been increased and interruptions in services may mean additional impacts  

In addition we have hear of increased instances of challenging behaviour  – often against parents and sadly of harm to other family members. In addition, we cannot forget the mental health of parent carers and other family members..  

We welcome the mental health recovery plan published by the government – in particular the focus on children, schools and those with SEND. We must ensure that a joined up approach is taken and the right support and reasonable adjustments are put in place for those with mental health concerns.    

Transitions are challenging at the best of times. During the pandemic, many CYP have not been able to prepare for important changes and as such are at increased risk of failing. This is particularly true of CYP with SEND.
Because of the disruption, there has been an increased focus on key transitions. People have recognised the need for earlier transition planning and are more aware of the need to support successful transitions.  

Government catch up funding can be used to support transitions. For example, the guidance on summer schools that proposes a focus on year 6 to 7 transitions is very welcome.    
We have been contacted by many parents who have been very worried about children and young people who are coming up to important transitions. Because of the disruption of the last year, many CYP have not been able to undertake or complete the programme of work that was planned in order to prepare them for an important transition. This could be a transition between key stages, schools or educational settings, leaving education or even coming up to the age of 26 when an EHCP will cease.  

We are concerned that if CYP are not properly prepared for a change (especially those with SEND) they are at increased risk of not transitioning successfully  -this may manifest itself in many forms such as academic failure, anxiety and mental health concerns or an inability to make the steps to independence that are required (e.g. getting public transport to college).  

We have asked the DfE to ensure that the right measures are put in place for these young people. These measures should be discussed and coproduced with the CYP and their parent carers and may include things such as:
Use of DfE catch up funding to provide additional educational or wrap around support
Closer working between the sending setting and the receiving setting (e.g. a very closely co-ordinated and graduated transition)
Delayed starts to allow CYP to develop the necessary skills and knowledge
Repeating years  

Opportunities for CYP in employment have been impacted – limited. Opportunities in retail and hospitality have fallen away  
Covid 19 Vaccinations

The roll out of covid 19 vaccinations offers opportunities to improve record keeping and delivery to services for those who are carers or have additional needs.    
The drive for covid 19 vaccinations may offer some opportunities for the support of families with CYP with SEND. I particular, the vaccination of carers may raise awareness with GP surgeries and provide an opportunity to improve record keeping (e.g. identifying carers, updating the learning disability register) and support (being able to provide support to carers, following up on annual LDA health checks)  

We would like to see the NHSE use opportunity that covid offers to further promote the needs for LDA registers, carers registers and annual LDA health checks.    
The vaccine roll out has again highlighted the “post code lottery” in parts of the NHS. Our membership have reported very different experiences in different parts of the country and with different GP surgeries (and even different GP receptionists!)  

The definition of “carer” has also been inconsistent with some areas taking a common sense approach and others only considering those in receipt of carers allowance.
Elective Home Education  

There has been a spike in those choosing to electively home educate and this represents an opportunity as well as a risk for families with SEND.
We have seen an increase in the number of families choosing to electively home educate their children. The experiences of home learning over lockdown and the increased availability of remote learning resources (e.g. BBC Bitesize, Oak Academy) have meant that more parents are confident to take this step for their children  

We would like to see local councils and the DfE support these parents and help them to give their children a high quality education.
We must ensure that families who are choosing to electively home educate their children fully understand the implications of their decision, for example:
-It is not an opt in / out system – that once they give up their school place it will no longer be available for them – they cannot easily change their mind
-Schools will not be providing them with remote support  
Employment opportunities  

Jobs in some sectors that have historically been employment opportunities for those with SEND (e.g. hospitality, retail) have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
Whilst some areas that have traditionally offered employment opportunities for CYP with SEND have been hard hit by the pandemic others (such as logistics and care) have boomed.

Also the opportunities offered by fewer migrant workers following Brexit may offer opportunities for employment opportunities for young people with SEND in areas such as agriculture.  
The impact of the pandemic has impacted job prospects for many young people with SEND in key sectors such as retail and hospitality.   Many young people have been unable to finish courses and training as a result of the pandemic (see transitions point above)    

Any government employment recovery efforts and plans should include specific mention of employment support and opportunities for young people with SEND
Department for Education NNPCF work

Transitions and annual reviews

We wanted to take this opportunity to update on two Covid related issues have been raised to the NNPCF over recent few weeks that we have escalated to the Department for Education


We have been contacted by many parents who have been very worried about children and young people who are coming up to important transitions. Because of the disruption of the last year, many CYP have not been able to undertake or complete the programme of work that was planned in order to prepare them for an important transition. This could be a transition between key stages, schools or educational settings, leaving education or even coming up to the age of 26 when an EHCP will cease.

We are concerned that if CYP are not properly prepared for a change (especially those with SEND) they are at increased risk of not transitioning successfully -this may manifest itself in many forms such as academic failure, anxiety and mental health concerns or an inability to make the steps to independence that are required (e.g. getting public transport to college).

We have asked the DfE to ensure that the right measures are put in place for these young people. These measures should be discussed and coproduced with the CYP and their parent carers and may include things such as:

· Use of DfE catch up funding to provide additional educational or wrap around support

· Closer working between the sending setting and the receiving setting (e.g. a very closely co-ordinated and graduated transition)

· Delayed starts to allow CYP to develop the necessary skills and knowledge

· Repeating years

Annual reviews

We have heard very mixed reports of the status of annual reviews over the last few months. Some areas have fed back that they have been progressing as normal, just remotely. Others have told us that the quality and frequency of annual reviews has fallen significantly with many families reporting delays or annual reviews not happening at all. We have raised this with the Department for Education and have asked them to monitor the progress and quality of

annual reviews. We will also be asking Ofsted to look at annual reviews as a part of their local area visits when they resume over the coming months.

As most children have returned to school, we continue to monitor the feedback from parent carer forums on how this is going for SEND families. We will update further on this over the coming days.

Department for Education Minister for children and families

Minister Ford’s open letter on return to school

Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford has put out an open letter to all families on the return to school.

NNPCF work

March schools re-opening NNPCF representations

On Monday, the government announced the full reopening of schools on the 8th March for all children and young people. A large amount of guidance was issued to support the re-opening which we shared earlier this week. All the latest Govt. guidance in one place – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (

Parent carer forums have a critical role to play over the coming weeks

The guidance covers many of the points that we have raised with the Department for Education and NHSE over the past 12 months of the coronavirus crisis. As schools return, we know that many local areas, schools and health providers will interpret and implement this guidance in different ways, many of which may disadvantage children with SEND. As such, the role that parent carer forums play in observing, reporting and escalating local practice will be critically important.

The NNPCF are calling for three key things over the coming weeks:

  1. Effective, open and honest communication with children and young people (CYP) with SEND and their families. Schools, local authorities and health providers must make sure that they take the time to have proper and meaningful conversations with families.
  2. Listen to what families have to say and ensure good coproduction with them about the best way of supporting CYP over the coming weeks to ensure that we achieve the best possible outcomes.
  3. Based on this, make reasonable adjustments to support CYP with SEND and their families to return from lockdown

If parent carer forums have concerns about any area of the implementation of guidance, they should first raise it with their local area or school. If concerns remain then then it should be escalated to their regional NNPCF steering group member and the regional Department for Education SEND lead (and if appropriate regional NHSE leads). We published some information on how to do this recently

We have already raised many of the issues that are most likely to cause concern

These include:

  • Attendance – attendance at school is mandatory but we have raised with the DfE that a supportive approach should be taken and families should not be penalised if their child is anxious about a return to school and a slower, more supported return would help. Clinically extremely vulnerable children should be continued to be supported at home with remote education. Many families have reported that remote learning has worked well for their children and in these cases we would encourage coproductive conversations between schools, local authorities and families about the right way forward.
  • Behaviour – we have made strong representations to the DfE the need to take a supportive rather than punitive approach to children’s behaviour over this period.
  • Covid vaccinations – we need to ensure clarity and equity of covid vaccinations for key groups such as those with learning disabilities, parent carers, school and other staff involved with vulnerable pupils (e.g. transport staff). The guidance is clear that a “no vaccine, no entry” policy is unacceptable. For our recent representations on this topic see Covid 19 Vaccinations and SEND – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (
  • Testing – reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to enable testing, where appropriate, for children and young people with SEND. Again, the guidance is clear that a “no test, no entry” policy is unacceptable.
  • Wearing of masks – reasonable adjustments must be made for those children who will not be able to wear face masks
  • School transport – we urge clear communication with families and reasonable adjustments to ensure that everyone understand the measures in place to ensure that school transport is safe
  • Therapy services and EHCP provision – we continue to hear concerns about access to therapy services and provision outlined in EHCPs for many children. Again, guidance is clear that the provision in EHCPs should be delivered including therapy services in school settings.
  • Catch up – We believe that catch up should be holistic and not just academic and be differentiated and accessible to CYP with SEND. You can see more on this here: NNPCF representations on catch-up learning – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C
  • Exams and assessments – The particular challenges faced by SEND pupils must be considered in any assessments that are carried out. See our representations here NNPCF input into assessments consultation – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

We are also working on some of the longer term issues that have arisen from the Covid crisis

We know that annual reviews have been delayed for many children, that many families have concerns about their child’s readiness for important transitions that are coming up and, of course, the longer term impacts on mental health and anxiety. We will share more about our work in these and other long term impacts of covid on children and young people with SEND in the coming weeks.

Covid-19 DfE guidance

All the latest Govt. guidance in one place

We felt that, as so much has happened of late with changes to guidance, that it would be good to share the links to all pertinent documents here in one place.

Covid-19 Education

NNPCF representations on catch-up learning

In the last few weeks there has been a lot of comment in the press about how children and young people who have missed out on school and learning over the last year will be supported to catch up. Some of the ideas that have been discussed include summer schools, extending the school day and making terms longer by two weeks.

There are three broad areas of focus for catch up – these are:

· The quality of education

· More teaching time for children

· Curriculum

At the start of the new year, the NNPCF asked parent carer forums for their views on how well the catch-up funding announced by the government last year was being deployed in their area. Based on your feedback we have made the following representations to the government on this matter:

1. There has been a huge variability of experience for children and a “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate. The impact of lock down has been very different for each child and family.

For example, some children with SEND have been in school whilst the majority have not. The quality of remote education for children with SEND has been very variable – some schools have provided training for parents, pre-learning for children, used break out rooms in video conferencing tools to provide 1:1 support and have sent specialist materials and equipment home. Other schools have not differentiated their offer for SEND at all and are just sending out links to Oak academy or BBC Bitesize lessons. Moreover, some children have adapted well to remote learning whereas many more have struggled without the clear structure and support offered by school.

2. Any catch-up must be holistic and not just academic. Children have not just lost a year of learning, many have lost a year of their childhood including the physical, mental, emotional and social development that they would have enjoyed. These factors are amplified for children with

SEND and a focus on mental health and therapy services is essential in any catch-up proposal. Absent this, many children will not be ready to learn because of the broader impact of lockdown on their well-being.

3. Any schemes to offer additional teaching time must be structured in a way that will be appealing and accessible to children with SEND. For example, extending the school day may provide challenges for some children with SEND and summer school may not be possible or attractive for many families. We have asked the DfE to look at a wider range of providers for example sports schemes and summer respite schemes to see if additional funding can be used to make these activities (many of which are targeted at children and young people with SEND) a part of a holistic catch-up programme.

4. Coproduction – any catch-up programme should be coproduced with individual families to make sure that what is offered meets their particular needs. In addition, parent carer forums should be involved in designing local area solutions to catch up and helping to determine how money can be spent most effectively. We have seen excellent examples of PCFs coproducing creative solutions to supporting SEND catch up in some local areas.

Department for Education parent carer forum guidance

Statement on Department for Education about increased funding for parent carer forums

Dear parent carer forums

We hope that you and your families are keeping safe and that you’re navigating the latest challenges as best as you can.

We’re really pleased to be able to confirm that the DfE has this afternoon announced that they are continuing to fund SEND contracts next year.

You will be delighted to know that in recognition of the amazing work that forums do, especially throughout the pandemic, that forums’ funding has been increased by £2,500, to £17,500. We hope that forums will be reassured that funding is to continue for another year, and that the DfE sees the value and impact of the work of forums locally and regionally, and nationally, via the NNPCF.

Helen Scott at the DfE said ‘We are pleased to announce that we will re-awarding current contracts and grants which enable schools, colleges, families and local authorities, to support thousands of children with SEND. This includes providing up to £17,500 for each Parent Carer Forum – an increase of £2,500 compared to 2020-21 – to strengthen the participation of parents in the SEND system’

Tina Emery and Mrunal Sisodia, Co-Chairs of the NNPCF stated that ‘The National Network of Parent Carer Forums are really pleased that there is an extension to the strategic participation contract and we look forward to working with all parties within the consortium over the coming year. We are delighted that the DfE has recognised the difference that forums make, which is reflected in the £2,500 increase in the grant funding’.

This is a huge testament to the work that you all do to make a difference and to work with your local area partners to ensure the best service possible for your children and young people. We’re really proud to see how forums have developed over the years, and that they have become such strong and respected organisations.

We both look forward to continuing to work with all forums, and our other strategic participation consortium partners CDC and KIDS over the coming year.

With very best wishes,

Contact and the NNPCF


Covid 19 Vaccinations and SEND

Whilst great progress is being made to vaccinate people, NHS staff and some care workers, parent carer forums are raising issues about the position of SEND families and services with regard to vaccinations.

Forums have described a “post code lottery” across three clear areas related to SEND which is causing confusion and anxiety. These are

1. Vaccinations for vulnerable children – Covid vaccinations are currently not authorised for use on children. However, we are hearing that clinically vulnerable children have been vaccinated in some localities. The guidance from the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health outlines circumstances in which vaccinating children might be considered whilst making clear that these vaccinations would be “unlicensed use.” Message for paediatricians on children and young people and the COVID-19 vaccination programme | RCPCH

2. Vaccinations for unpaid carers – Unpaid carers are eligible for vaccination as priority 6 cases. Parent carers should contact their GP to ensure they are identified as such on GP records. Our partners at Contact have done a lot of work on this and you can find their guidance here: Covid-19 vaccination: your questions answered | Contact

3. Special school staff – in some areas special school staff have been vaccinated. In others, they have not. We have asked local authorities, healthcare systems and school to ensure that staff are vaccinated as soon as possible to enable special schools to reopen fully

The NNPCF have raised these areas to NHSE and to the Department for Education in a call for more clarity and a consistent approach across the country. However, much of this is down to local implementation and policy in particular local authorities and even GP’s surgeries.

The NNPCF will continue to highlight these concerns at a national policy level and local parent carer forums should continue to raise them at a local implementation level.