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.


Ofsted, COVID-19 series of reports

Ofsted has produced a series of reports on the impact of COVID.

Ofsted: Children hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic are regressing in basic skills and learning

Ofsted’s headlines from second report on the effects of the COVID-19 across the sectors it inspects and regulates:

• children hardest hit by restrictions have regressed in some basic skills and learning

• young children, previously potty-trained, have lapsed, particularly where parents unable to work flexibly

• Older children lost stamina in reading, writing, physical fitness

• Some signs of mental distress, increase in eating disorders and self-harm

• Concerns about children out of sight during school closures, falling referrals to social care, fears about potential undetected domestic neglect, exploitation or abuse

From Amanda Speilman’s overall commentary:

Across all age groups, children with SEND have been seriously affected in both their care and education, as the services that families relied on – particularly speech and language services – were unavailable.

Ofsted’s series of reports covers:

• schools

• further education and skills

• early years

• social care

• local areas’ SEND provision

Headlines from the local areas’ SEND provision:

Briefing on local areas’ special educational needs and disabilities provision:

Evidence from visits to six local areas between 5 and 14 October 2020

Ofsted briefing answers four broad questions based on evidence from the visits:

1. How have children and young people with SEND experienced the pandemic so far?

2. What has worked well in supporting children and young people with SEND?

3. What have the challenges been and what has not worked so well?

4. What are the plans for supporting these children and young people in the future?

Main findings

Many of the families found the first COVID-19 restrictions challenging:

• coping got harder as time went on

• struggled without established routines, support networks, specialist services

• challenges linked to children’s regression, own mental health difficulties, explaining restrictions to children, risks the virus posed to their child’s health.

Nevertheless, some children and young people had positive experiences:

• at least in some respects

• Those in education benefited, flourished with smaller class sizes and more support

• Others enjoyed being at home and made progress.

Some area leaders wanted to focus planning on CYP with SEND and their families

• aimed to keep services accessible, adapted when necessary

• Some practitioners described steps to ensure service continuity

• Families spoke about benefits of multi-agency practitioners together online

• Families valued online resources for education or therapy programmes

• But, short breaks, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, more difficult or impossible to deliver at distance

• also concerns about access because of technology or E2L

Relationships with families before March 2020 affected support during restrictions:

• Positive relationships meant support more likely to continue and be adapted to needs

• families referred to those who had gone ‘above and beyond’ and how this had benefited them

• weak relationships deteriorated further with serious consequences

• some families reported little or even no contact from practitioners, no learning support, no access to health, therapeutic services

• In some cases children’s health had deteriorated, children lost learning, communication skills.

Looking ahead:

• Local area leaders facing challenging circumstances

• increase in COVID-19 cases anticipated

• concern about staff burnout: months of significant change, high workloads

• priorities: support mental health, well-being of teams and CYP and families worked with

• enhance communication between services and users

parent carer forum guidance

Guidance for Parent Carer Forums on January national lockdown

At the start of January, the NNPCF published a list of risks and potential issues for children and young people with SEND at the start of a new national lockdown, in particular, one in which schools were closed.

Over the last 3 weeks we have been gathering intelligence from parent carer forums and many of the concerns we had highlighted have sadly materialised.

The main themes are ones of confusion around guidance and what is expected – many local areas, schools and health and social care providers are adopting local practises that are contrary to national guidance and law. There are many drivers for this including guidance from national government being issued late (and often after local practices were implanted), capacity issues, confusion around guidance and in some cases ignorance.

Below, we have updated the list published on the 4th January (in green) to update with the concerns that have been raised to us in the last three weeks.

The ability of the government to influence some of this practise at a local and school based level appears stymied at this time. In this situation local parent carer forums play an increasingly important role in highlighting these issues (and good practise where it exists) and working with local systems to address them. The NNPCF will continue to bring these issues to the attention of national government and NHS leaders including the Ofsted and CQC inspectorates and SEND tribunal leads.

Partial or full school closures

  • School places must be made available to vulnerable children and young people including those with EHCPs. During the first round of national school closures, many families reported that they were not being offered school places based on school focussed risk assessments. The DfE and local areas must ensure that all vulnerable children who want / need a school place should be offered one.

We are hearing that more vulnerable children and children of key workers are being offered places that in the first lockdown and more are taking those places up. However, we continue to hear examples of families being discouraged to take up places. Some local authorities have sent letters out to parents urging them to keep their children at home with no differentiation for vulnerable children who they should be “encouraging” to attend school as per guidance issued.

Forums tell us that many special schools are experiencing capacity constraints. Some have adopted good a good coproduction based approach in these circumstances, working with families to understand what provision they need and how this can be supplied. Others have taken unilateral decisions based on prioritisation criteria that have been implemented without consultation.

Where children with EHCPs are not offered a school place, or offered a part-time place, we would like to see this recorded using a separate code in registers and formal follow up by schools and local authorities to assess what alternative provision is necessary.

  • Conversely, we do not support mandatory attendance at school for vulnerable children. This decision must be coproduced with families. The particular needs and circumstances of families must be taken into account in making these decisions.
  • There needs to be an increased focus on children and young people on SEN support. Throughout this period, there has been a great deal of attention on CYP with EHCPs, but little focus and provision for those on SEN support who have often had little or no additional support. The new definition of “vulnerable” has the flexibility to include pupils on SEN support – parent carer forums should ensure this is implemented where appropriate

There have been some examples of mainstream schools seeking to broaden the attendance of children on SEN support. However, this point has not been well understood and typically schools are not implementing this.

  • We must ensure that remote education provided for CYP with SEN is differentiated and that the appropriate support is provided. Schools should work with families to ensure that innovative solutions can be put in place for children who require specialist or 1:1 support. This should also include access to any specialist materials and any necessary IT equipment.

Many families are reporting that the quality of remote education is better than in the first lockdown – teachers are in more regular contact and more differentiated work is being provided. However, this is very inconsistent across different areas, schools and even classes. Moreover, remote education of CYP with SEND remains a real challenge for many absent direct specialist or 1:1 support and access to specialist materials. In particular we are hearing of children with dyslexia are struggling with the huge quantities of text they are being asked to absorb.

We have heard examples of some schools telling families that remote learning is their main offer and those physically attending school will only receive “childcare”. This is clearly a problem and discriminatory for vulnerable children including those with SEND who need to attend school.

  • We must ensure that any system that replaces exams this year does not further disadvantage children and young people with SEND. The impact of factors such as anxiety, lost learning, missed therapy sessions and illness must be taken into account when assessing learners this year.

NNPCF have engaged with the DfE and Ofqual teams looking at assessments in 2021. You can find our update here: NNPCF input into assessments consultation – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C

  • We do not support the return of “reasonable endeavours” powers under the Coronavirus Act. If it is impossible schools and other services to deliver all the services in an EHCP there must be an open an honest conversation with families to coproduce what services are possible to deliver and what alternatives can be put in place.

Some local areas and schools have published information that the reasonable endeavours powers remain in force. This is completely unacceptable and we have escalated this to the DfE.

Social Care and Health services

  • If schools are closed for any extended period of time, we know that the need for social care services will be increased. In particular, local areas need to work to ensure that respite services continue to be available for families – they may also want to look at increased respite care provision if schools remain closed for an extended period. The creative and flexible use of personal budgets has been successful in some areas and should be enabled and encouraged.

Access to respite care remains a concern. With many SEND children out of school (whether through choice or not being offered a place) more families that were already tired are further stretched. Some providers are turning to online services which whilst it provides some diversion and variety for families, does not provide respite as children still need to be supervised.

Worryingly, we have heard of examples of respite provision telling families that have been isolating that they will lose their place because they have not been using it, even if the child concerned is considered clinically extremely vulnerable. We have also seen examples of families having unspent personal budgets being clawed back – we would like to see flexibility and creativity in how these funds can be used.

  • Clarity and flexibility on support bubbles for families with children with SEND. Because of the increased amount of support that families with SEND require, it is essential that there is some flexibility and discretion around support bubbles for them. This may be additional family members or carers being enabled to provide support within a bubble.
  • Health services should continue to be available to families through this period and the health services out children rely upon should not be redeployed. Where appropriate, services and consultations should be delivered remotely – many families reported satisfaction with remote occupational, speech and language and physio therapy services.

The guidance issued by the NHS that SEND health services should not be withdrawn has been helpful. However, we continue to hear of long waits for therapies, eye appointments, paediatricians appointments as demand grows and backlogs from the first covid wave remain. Some families have expressed concerns that they have not physically seen a paediatrician for over 12 months and are understandably concerned about the risks this raises when updating prescriptions for vital medications.

There continue to be some examples of CCGs and health trusts limiting access for therapy staff to certain sites or some settings not having clear visitor policies. This is hindering access to some essential services. We also have examples of health services being relocated to inappropriate or inaccessible locations.

  • Mental health support needs to be stepped up. The emotional impact on children of missing school is well recognised. Many CAMHS services have reported an increase in activity and acuity following the first round of school closures. We would like CAMHS services to be prioritised and resourced appropriately.

We continue to hear of increased concerns from SEND families around anxiety, behaviour and mental health and concerns about the capacity of services to respond.


  • The messages that testing is not mandatory to attend school needs to be reinforced. We have heard of some isolated cases where a different impression has been given. There are many reasons why a family may not want their child to be tested and these must be understood and respected.

We have heard of some isolated cases where families are being told that a covid test is required as a part of the risk assessment process or a prerequisite to returning to school.

  • Reasonable adjustments must be made to enable children to undergo testing where necessary. These may include performing swabbing at home in familiar surroundings and swabbing performed by a parent or other trusted adult. Parents should be trained and enabled to support testing where necessary. There will need to be a clear plan about how testing will be carried out when children are not physically in school.

There is confusion and very varied practise around the conduct of testing. Some schools and local areas are supporting trusted adults to be present and assist with testing others are not. We have not heard of cases of testing at home being allowed.


  • We would like to see children with SEND given a higher priority for vaccinations than other children. We understand that children (even those with underlying health conditions) are rarely ill as a result of contracting the virus but vulnerable children are often disproportionately impacted by the response to covid (e.g. lockdown) and so protecting them and enabling them to continue to access services must be a priority.
  • We also believe that teachers of vulnerable children and other staff that vulnerable children rely upon (e.g. special schools teachers) should be prioritised for vaccination.

Different local areas are taking different approaches to the priority for vaccinations for people involved in SEND including teachers, TAs, parent-carers and other care providers. We would like clarity that these groups should be given priority and in which wave they should be vaccinated.

Also, clearer messaging is needed from the NHS about whether the vaccine is authorised for use on children and whether it is safe for children. There is confusion and anxiety from parents about this.


Coproduction is more important than ever (as supported by the recent Ofsted and CQC report following local area visits during the pandemic). National and local government, school leaders and staff must continue to work strategically with parent carer forums to ensure services are delivered in the most effective way. Moreover, schools, teachers, NHS and social workers must coproduce with individual parent carers and young people to ensure that services are delivered in way that is effective for each individual family.

Please find a pdf version of this page below.


National Strategy for Disabled People Consultation

The Disability Unit at Cabinet Office is developing a National Stratgey for Disabled People, which publication planned for Spring 2021. The Disability Unit has launched the UK Disability Survey (link below) and we want to hear from as many people as possible. We are particularly keen to hear from disabled people, their carers, friends and family but views from the wider public are also very welcome. The survey will remain open until 23rd April, and all views will be used to shape the delivery of the plans we set out in the Strategy with those that we receive by 13th February informing its development.

We’ve tried to make sure the survey which is hosted on Citizen Space is as accessible as possible. It is available in Easy Read, BSL and written responses can be sent to: A braille version is available on request and blind or partially sighted people who are having difficulty filling in the online survey can email RNIB for advice or support at:

NNPCF work

NNPCF input into assessments consultation

The background

Earlier this month, the government announced that the 2021 summer exam series would not be taking place. They have launched a consultation about how children and young people should be assessed if exams cannot be used. The key points of the proposal are:

  • Grades will be based on teacher assessment
  • Guidance will be provided to teachers on how best to do this
  • Assessments will be made at the end of the academic year at about the same time as students would have been sitting exams
  • Exam boards will be asked to produce sets of papers to help with this assessment. The content and scope of these papers,. when they are released and whether they are mandatory has not yet been determined.
  • Where non-exam work (e.g. coursework) already forms a part of the final grade, this should continue to be used.
  • There will be internal and external scrutiny and quality assurance of grades awarded.

For a link to the full consultation see Consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021 (

Key representations from the NNPCF

Impact of C19 needs to be taken into account

  1. Any new arrangements must take into account the disproportionate impact of not being able to access school on learners with SEND. This can take many forms, for example:
  2. Those who rely on support from a Teaching Assistant to access learning may not have had that support for much of the year
  3. Many families have told us that they have not had access to specialist equipment or materials during lockdown
  4. Families have not had access to specialist teaching during the year – its can be significantly more difficult to support a child with additional needs than one without
  5. Many families report that they have not had access to a differentiated curriculum for much of the year making it more difficult for their children to learn in the appropriate way.
  • The broader impact of covid 19 measures on pupils with SEND may further disadvantage children with SEND. For example, these might include:
  • Many of the services that SEND families rely upon have been more difficult or impossible to access through this period. For example, therapy services were halted in many areas and appointments with paediatricians and mental health services have faced long delays. The impact on general wellbeing of children with SEND has been disproportionately impacted.
  • Uncertainty throughout this period and change in routine may impact those with certain neurodiversity conditions making it more difficult for them to learn and increasing their anxiety.
  • Children with SEND have also been impacted by factors effecting the wider school population. These must be factored into the assessment system if it is to have credibility and equity. Most notably:
  • The difference in lost learning. Some children have lost a few days of time in school this year whereas others have lost months. Children with SEND have perhaps been more impacted because many have complex health conditions which makes it more likely that they have been unwell or shielding. Attendance statistics for special schools and mainstream schools evidence this.
  • The quality of remote learning has varied greatly across the country and between schools. Some pupils have been receiving high quality interactive and tailored lessons throughout whereas others have simply been sent links to BBC bitesize and the oak academy. As noted above, some learners with SEND have received a well differentiated curriculum and others have not.

Carrying out assessments

  • The key is that reasonable adjustments appropriate for each child with additional needs must be made to enable them to participate fairly in any assessment regime. These may include the normal access arrangements that schools may put in place (e.g. additional time in exams) but may also need to include additional measures to reflect the particular circumstances of each pupil. This would include information from the SENCo, any social care professionals or medical support the young person receives including allied professionals and therapy services.
  • Many parents have asked that special provision is made for those young people who are approaching a significant transition. Apart from exams, they may not be ready to move onto the next stage of their education (e.g. if they have missed large amount of school) from an emotional or, independence or social skills point of view. For these young people, we would like them to have the option of repeating a year.
  • Particular provision may need to be made for those young people who are retaking exams (for example to enable access to vocational courses).


  • Given the impact of late decisions and uncertainty on many pupils with SEND, our families have asked for urgent clarity on arrangements. The disproportionate impact of uncertainty and changes to plans is something our members are desperate to avoid.


We firmly believe that the key to successful assessment of young people with SEND is coproduction with them and their families. Only by understanding their particular circumstances, the impact that the pandemic and our response has had on them can we hope to assess them in a credible and equitable way. Any measures or adjustments put in place must be coproduced with children, young people and their families.

Minister for children and families

Minister Vicky Ford’s open letter to the SEND community

Yesterday Minister Vicky Ford released an open letter to Children and Young people with SEND, their families and those who support them.