Guidance on Risk Assessments for Accessing School for those with Complex Needs


Risk assessments and involving parent carers – new guidance for special schools, specialist colleges, local authorities and any other settings managing children and young people with complex special educational needs and disability (SEND) – Issued 19th April 2020

New guidance has been issued this week particularly aimed at supporting specialist education setting to support children and young people with complex needs. Below is a summary of the key points contained in the guidance.

Who is this guidance for?

The guidance states that it relates to;

“children and young people whose need for hands-on care or whose behaviours mean that there are more, or more nuanced, risks to be managed than for the majority of children and young people with EHC plans. Most of these children and young people attend special schools, specialist colleges and other specialist settings, but this guidance also applies to any mainstream educational setting caring for such children and young people.”

While the guidance encourages families and practitioners to work together to make a balanced assessment of whether or not the young person should be in school is also states that;

“Ultimately, under the current legislative framework it is for parents/carers or a young person (or the corporate parent, where applicable and the child is in the care of the local authority) to decide whether the child or young person should continue to go to school or college.”

Making the decision about if a child or young person with an EHCP will attend should.

The guidance says;

“Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be safer at home, the Department for Education (DfE) recommends they stay at home. Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be as safe or safer at an education setting, DfE recommends they attend the education setting.”

It also makes it clear that young people’s and parent carers views are expected to form part of a risk assessment. It provides the following guidance on what should be covered by a risk assessment.

“A risk assessment for a child or young person will need to balance a number of different risks, including:

  • the potential health risks to the individual from coronavirus (COVID-19), bearing in mind any underlying health conditions
  • the risk to the individual if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered for the time being and the risk if they cannot be delivered in the normal manner or in the usual setting and the opportunities to meet needs in a different way temporarily e.g. in the home or online
  • the ability of the individual’s parents or carers or home to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely week-round or for multiple weeks, bearing in mind the family’s access to respite
  • the potential impact to the individual’s wellbeing of changes to routine or the way in which provision is delivered
  • any out-of-school or college risk or vulnerability. For example, a child or young person becoming involved in dangerous behaviour or situations or requiring support from a social worker. This applies to those whose needs are best met in educational settings, particularly in order to stop a care placement breakdown”

The guidance states that;

“Risk assessments should consider which children and young people with EHC plans may benefit more from remaining at school or college than at home.

This is most likely to be the case where:

  • a child or young person is receiving personal care or healthcare at their school or college which cannot be replicated at home (for example, many pupils and students in residential settings); or
  • it is not sustainable for parents or carers to meet their child’s needs full-time for an extended period (for example, those attending day settings whose parents meet their personal care, mobility or other needs in evenings and weekends, but where this would not be sustainable full-time); or
  • the child or young person would face other risks out of school or college (for example, if it is more feasible for them to follow social distancing and good hygiene practices within the routine and familiarity of their school or college day, or where their behaviour would put them at other risks out of school or college); or
  • children and young people whose condition prevents or inhibits self-regulation and whose behaviours cannot be supported or managed by parents or carers at home; or where this would place a risk to other siblings or family members”

The guidance recognises that in some cases these risk assessments will be complex and challenging and finely balanced decisions will need to be made. It highlights that the best way to do this is to ensure that local authorities, education providers and parent carers work collaboratively to make these decisions.

What should happen if it is decided that a child or young person with an EHCP should stay at home?

If it is decided that a young person with an EHCP should remain at home the guidance says that;

“local authorities and educational settings need to ensure the family understands the support plan that is in place for them, before a child or young person stops attending their educational setting.”

Are schools safe?

The guidance states that;

“Fewer children attending educational settings will mean that social mixing is reduced and the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is less likely.”


“Settings remain safe places for children and staff.”

The following guidance is provided for education settings;

“As far as is possible, social distancing should be adhered to in all settings and class or group sizes should be kept small

It is recognised that some children and young people with special educational needs present behaviours that are challenging to manage in the current context, such as spitting uncontrollably.

It will be impossible to provide the care that some children and young people need without close hands-on contact.

In these circumstances, staff need to increase their level of self-protection, such as minimising close contact and having more frequent hand-washing and other hygiene measures, and regular cleaning of surfaces. We recommend that educational settings follow the Public Health England guidance on Cleaning in non-healthcare settings.”

Should education staff should be wearing PPE?

The guidance is clear about whether education staff should wear PPE and provides advice on how schools should manage hygiene.

“The scientific advice indicates that educational staff do not require PPE. This is needed by medical and care professionals providing specific close contact care, or procedures that create airborne risk, such as suctioning and physiotherapy, to people with a possible or confirmed case of coronavirus COVID-19.

PPE is therefore only needed in residential special schools and colleges if pupils develop symptoms and where the setting will need to implement isolation in line with the guidance on isolation for residential educational settings.

Pupils and students in day education settings should not attend their education setting if they develop symptoms: they should isolate at home, as per the Public Health England guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

PPE is only one element of safe and effective infection control, and appropriate environmental controls, hand and respiratory hygiene, the management of pupils and the information and training for staff are just as important.

Strict hygiene procedures should be followed between interactions with different children or young people. Where possible, the number of different children or young people any given staff member is providing personal care for should be reduced by increasing the consistency of staff rotas.”

The full guidance can be read here

If you have any questions about this guidance or have any experiences to share around support for children and young people with EHCP’s during the current circumstances, please do contact PACC. 

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