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Special Educational Needs: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL11507, tabled on 15 December 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what additional support they plan to provide to children with disabilities and special educational needs who are isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answered on

23 December 2020

For pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), teachers are best placed to know how their needs can be most effectively met to ensure that they continue to make progress, even if they are not able to attend school due to following COVID-19 guidance and the law. The requirement for schools to use their ‘best endeavours’ to meet the special educational needs of their pupils remains in place.

Schools should work collaboratively with families, putting in place adjustments so that pupils with SEND can successfully access remote education alongside their peers. This expectation is set out in guidance for schools, available here:

To provide greater clarity, we have published a temporary continuity direction, which makes clear that schools have a duty to provide remote education for state-funded school-age pupils, including those with SEND, where they are unable to attend school due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This came into effect on 22 October 2020. An explanatory note is available here:

Where a child or young person has an Education, Health and Care Plan, it remains the duty of the local authority, and any health commissioning bodies, to secure or arrange any special educational and health care provision specified in the plan. We recognise that it may become very difficult to do so in certain circumstances, including where the child or young person is self-isolating. In these circumstances, decisions on how provision can be delivered should be taken on a case-by-case basis, informed by the factors relevant to the individual case. This includes, for example, the types of services that the child or young person can access remotely, such as online teaching and remote therapy sessions.

To support the hard work of schools in delivering remote education, we have made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for reception up to year 11. Specialist content for pupils with SEND is also available. This covers communication and language, numeracy, creative arts, independent living, physical development and early development learning. Additionally, Oak offers therapy-based lessons and resources across occupational, physical, sensory, and speech and language therapy.

As part of over £195 million invested to support access to remote education and online social care, over 340,000 laptops and tablets are being made available this term to support disadvantaged children in years 3 to 11, whose face-to-face education may be disrupted.

This supplements over 220,000 laptops and tablets and over 50,000 4G wireless routers, which have already been delivered during the summer term. Schools, trusts, and local authorities are responsible for distributing the laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.

Schools are expected to lend these laptops and tablets to disadvantaged pupils who would not otherwise be able to access remote education in years 3 to 11, including those with SEND. Schools will also be able to order laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children across all year groups who are shielding as a result of official or medical advice, all year groups who attend a hospital school that is required to close, and those completing their key stage 4 at a further education college that is required to close.

The department has announced £37.3 million for the Family Fund this year to support over 75,000 families on low incomes raising children with disabilities or serious illnesses. This includes £10 million to specifically address needs arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.