Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Update and the Response to Covid-19
- Meeting of Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 7th October, 2020 10.00 am (Item 38.)
Report of the Director of Education
This report details the actions taken by the Council, health services and education settings to support children and young people with SEND and their families during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Committee received a report of the Director of Education which detailed the actions taken by the Council, health services and education settings to support children and young people with SEND and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officersreferred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:
- Changes in Government legislation in relation to children with SEND;
- Participation and co-production with parents/carers;
- Young people’s experiences, views and engagement;
- The Local Offer and the Information Advisory Service;
- Multi-agency working and joint commissioning;
- Quality and impact of Education, Health and Care assessments and plans;
- Elective Home Education;
- The continuum of provision in Manchester;
- Transition Planning Team;
- Short breaks and personal budgets;
- Workforce development; and
- Regional networking.
Jordan Navarro, Chair of Manchester Parent Carer Forum explained the role of the Forum. He informed the Committee that Forum members were all parents or carers of children with SEND so other parents felt able to approach them and they were able to represent the views of this group in meetings with the Council. He reported that the Forum had always had a good relationship with the Council’s SEND Team and that, during the pandemic, this had strengthened further and they had also developed relationships with other Council teams which had had a positive impact.
Jordan Navarro highlighted that some children with SEND found it difficult to attend a COVID-19 testing centre (for example, autistic children who found the number of people and the queuing difficult) but families had sometimes struggled to access home testing kits. He reported that the Forum had carried out a survey on COVID-19 testing centres and children with SEND, the results of which he would share with the SEND Team.
The Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND informed the Committee that nurses had visited the homes of children with complex SEND to carry out COVID-19 tests and that this had worked well. She reported that her service had communicated to the DfE the success of this approach and the challenges being experienced by some families in getting their children with SEND tested. Schools, including special schools, were also now able to provide home testing kits to families where necessary. She acknowledged that this has been a challenging area, although there had been some improvements and she welcomed the opportunity to see the results of the survey Mr Navarro referred to and hearing any suggestions from parents of children with SEND on how this could be improved.
In response to a Member’s question on how children with autism were affected by the changes in how schools were operating, the Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND reported that so far it seemed that the increased structure and calmer atmosphere, for example, around lunchtime and in school corridors was beneficial for children with autism. She highlighted that the number of exclusions since pupils had returned to school was lower than in previous years.
In response to a Member’s question about Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), the Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND advised Members that, although the timescales for completing these had been relaxed during the pandemic, the Council had still aimed to complete them within 20 weeks. She reported that, although many families were still waiting longer than this at present, changes had been implemented to improve the timeliness and quality of the plans, new staff had been recruited and progress was already being made. A Member welcomed the changes being made, including engaging with parents at an earlier stage in the process.
The Chair thanked everyone who had been involved in supporting children and young people with SEND during the pandemic.
To note the report and that the Committee would continue to monitor support for children and young people with SEND.