Government rules out relaxing SEND support rules – for now

The government has tentatively ruled out relaxing SEND support requirements during the current lockdown, instead urging authorities to make alternative arrangements if they are struggling to meet children’s legal provision.

As Schools Week reported last week, ministers were asked to “guarantee”  they would not re-introduce temporary legislation that “downgrades” support for SEND pupils.

For three months last year, the government relaxed the duty on councils to provide support for pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) during the pandemic, to which they faced a judicial review.

In guidance published today for special schools and alternative provision, the government says “at this stage” it does not intend to use the emergency powers, but it “will keep the position under review based on the evidence”.

However, the guidance acknowledges there may be times when securing provision “becomes more difficult to do so than usual”.

It adds: “In these circumstances, education settings, local authorities and health partners (where applicable) should discuss with families to co-produce alternative arrangements for delivering provision.

“These decisions should be considered on a case-by-case basis which takes account of the needs of, and circumstances specific to, the child or young person, avoiding a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“In some circumstances local authorities have worked collaboratively with settings and families to agree flexible and creative solutions for delivering support.”

The guidance also says that annual reviews can be held virtually or by home, but the child and their parents or carer must be at the “centre of the process and can engage with the process in a meaningful way”.

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