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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

Transitions

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.

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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 (nnpcf.org.uk)

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 (nnpcf.org.uk)
  • 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.

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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 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

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).

Clarity

  • 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.

Coproduction

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.