As you will be aware the DfE and OCC priority is for all pupils to be in school receiving face-to-face, high quality education. For children and young people with SEN and disabilities, receiving high quality education includes provision being delivered as usual to meet their SEND needs. Indeed, for those children with Education, Health and Care Plans, delivering what is in the child’s plan is a statutory duty.
Government guidance states that “Specialists, therapists and other health professionals who support children and young people with SEND (for example speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, educational psychologists and specialist teachers), should provide interventions as usual.” SEND and specialist settings: additional COVID-19 operational guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk) We are therefore writing to give some reassurances about SENSS staff and other OCC staff visiting schools.
Under the current OCC risk assessment, all peripatetic OCC staff visiting schools are following clinical guidance on asymptomatic testing using LFD tests daily. In addition, OCC staff in schools take very seriously their responsibilities in terms of following the continued emphasis on hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, wearing face coverings and managing Covid-19. Under your school and setting risk assessment, we trust that you will continue to enable professionals to visit your school to undertake their important work with pupils with SEND. If there are any concerns, please contact Educationcovid19@oxfordshire.gov.uk to discuss further.
The latest guidance recognises the fact that circumstances may lead to statutory processes or SEND provision having to be delivered in a different way, for example if a pupil is isolating due to having Covid-19. In this case, OCC staff supporting schools will work with you, families and other professionals to agree an appropriate way to deliver services or support for learning that is most appropriate and beneficial to the child or young person.
Finally, there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled pupils are not disadvantaged and can successfully access learning, be it in-person or remote. As an example, latest guidance on face coverings is that, for ‘pupils in year 7 and above… face coverings should be worn in classrooms’ as well as the continued recommendation that all students and adults in secondary schools, and adults in primary schools, ‘wear face coverings while moving around the premises and in communal areas.’ The need for ‘reasonable adjustment’ applies to this guidance; ‘There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances.’ In addition, there are some children, young people and staff (e.g. with hearing impairment) who need to see lip patterns and facial expressions to understand someone talking to them and a reasonable adjustment may be needed to enable them to communicate (e.g. removing a face covering or use of a transparent face covering).
When reviewing risk assessments for individual pupils or staff, please refer to the detailed DfE guidance on face coverings on pages 7-9 in the Schools COVID-19 operational guidance to support you Schools COVID-19 operational guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk).
Do contact your specialist SENSS teacher for more advice on reasonable adjustment for pupils with SEND if needed.
We look forward to continued working with you.
Tonia Harris and Alison Blaylock
Specialist Managers for SENSS