SEND minister: children with special educational needs should be supported in return to school
Published on 04 September 2020
The government minister with responsibility for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in England, Vicky Ford MP, has sent out a letter to schools and other education leaders explaining how the return to school this term should work and what schools and colleges should do.
This letter could help you if you have a child on the autism spectrum who is returning to school. The letter applies to children and young people with special educational needs in all types of school or college, whether mainstream or special.
Vicky Ford says very clearly that returning to education is vital and that children should receive the therapies, specialist support and reasonable adjustments they need.
The minister recognises that children and young people with SEND may be anxious, and that this might affect their behaviour when they return to school. The letter states clearly that, “School leaders should be mindful that disruptive behaviour might be the result of unmet educational and other needs and consider whether a multi-agency assessment is necessary.”
It also says that schools should only use exclusion as a last resort, and schools must follow the law on this. Schools have been told that they cannot tell a pupil to stay at home because they may not be able to follow the rules: the Government says that this is an unlawful exclusion.
The letter goes on to say that if parents decide to educate their child at home, this should be a positive choice based on how the child’s needs can best be met. Schools should not be putting pressure on parents to remove their child from school, and Ofsted will look for any evidence that this is occurring.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs and Social Change at the National Autistic Society, said: “There are an about 120,000 school-aged children on the autism spectrum in England and many of them rely on the SEND system to get the support they need.
“At the National Autistic Society, we have talked to the Department for Education throughout the coronavirus pandemic, explaining the impact on autistic children and the need for careful planning so they can return to school.
“We welcome the minister’s clarity on the need for schools to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children, including recognising that an autistic child’s behaviour may be caused by anxiety. We will be talking to parents across the country about their children’s experiences and continuing to let ministers know what is happening and what needs to change.
”It’s now up to schools to work with students and families to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. The Autism Education Trust has lots of useful information and free resources to help teachers and wider school staff. If you’re a parent and looking for support and guidance, please visit our coronavirus hub or contact our Education Rights Service.”
If you’re a teacher or work at a school and looking for information and guidance, the Autism Education Trust have lots of resources.
If you are worried about your child going back to school, or have questions about what’s happening, contact our Education Rights Service. They provide impartial and confidential information and support to families on children’s education rights and entitlements.
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