Key Points from SEND Webinar Returning to School in September - 39 Essex Chambers
PACC’s Participation Co-ordinator, Sarah Thomas, listened to the ‘Return to School’ webinar hosted by 39 Essex Chambers on the 23rd July 2020.
The webinar was presented by Polly Sweeney, Partner at Rook Irwin Sweeney LLP, Steve Broach, Barrister at 39 Essex Chambers and Alice Irving, Barrister joining Doughty Street Chambers from September 2020. It explored the legal rights of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities returning to School in September. The session covered:
- The latest government guidance and what is expected of families from September
- What support and provision children and young people with SEND will be entitled to receive
- Do children and young people with SEND have to return to School
- Children and young people who have been shielding
- In what circumstances parents can be fined for non-attendance
Further details and the presentations from the webinar can be found on the 39 Essex Chambers website. You can also listen to the recording of the webinar.
Some key points from the webinar are shared below;
If you feel your child should not be returning to school in September
- If you have concerns about your child attending school in September 2020 it is important to get support from a medical practitioner for your position as soon as possible. You should then speak to your Local Authority and try to work together to find a solution which accommodates your child’s needs.
- A head teacher does also have some discretion to authorise absence which they agree as necessary. So, you can negotiate your child’s absence from school with the head. Any unauthorised absences are required by law to be reported to the Local Authority.
- What happens if Somebody else at home is vulnerable? From 1st August shielding status is ceased and so this would not be seen as a legal reason for a child not to attend school. For example, a child who had been shielding would be expected to attend school in September so there is no legal case for their brothers or sisters not to go to school.
If you have concerns that your child will not be supported to access full-time education from September
- A school’s policy cannot be a barrier to a disabled child attending school, for example children with a specific medical support need, cannot legally be being told they cannot attend school because of that support need. Likewise, if a child exhibits behaviour that challenges due to their disability, such as spitting, this cannot be given as a reason for them not being allowed to attend school. This would be unlawful and discriminatory.
- Where there are concerns about either behaviour or needs relating to a disability in terms of returning to school, both mainstream and specialist settings are expected to make reasonable adjustments, so that a disabled child can access an education in the same way as a non-disabled child - the fact that a disabled child might not be able to social distance does not remove their right to an education.
- From September a school risk assessment cannot be used to refuse a child access to school, that can only happen if a medical practitioner says it is not safe for a child to attend school.
Key pieces of legislation and guidance
- The Equality Act 2010 - https://www.gov.uk/definition-of-disability-under-equality-act-2010
- The Children and Families Act – Part 3 - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/6/contents/enacted
- The SEND CODE of Practice - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-code-of-practice-0-to-25