Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...

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Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...
Forgotten. Left behind.
The experiences of young people with SEND and
 their educational transitions during the Covid-19
                                pandemic in 2020
                                 Report Spring 2021
Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...
This is not an official publication of the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
It has not been approved by either House or its committees.

All‑Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses
with a common interest in particular issues.

The views expressed in this report are those of the group.

2 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...
This is the first report of the APPG for
SEND. When we formed as a group in
early March 2020, we had no idea of
the turmoil that we all would face just
a few short weeks later as the Covid-19
pandemic hit and the country went into

The group formed with the aim of
supporting special schools and SEND
provision in mainstream school and
college settings. This past year has
seen young people with SEND, their
families and their educational settings
needing support and a platform more            As an APPG we don’t have the power to
than ever, as the Covid-19 pandemic has        make changes to policy or to systems
held a magnifying glass to the existing        but, as MPs, we do have influence. This
problems in the SEND system. This              report aims to further that influence and
report serves to highlight their stories; to   crystalise suggestions of how things
be a platform for their voice.                 can be improved. And they must be
When we began thinking about the
inquiry, the members of the APPG               We thank all the organisations who
were particularly keen to focus on             submitted evidence to this inquiry, and
how the transitions that young people          we are in the privileged position to be
with SEND face had been impacted by            able to bring together evidence and
the significant changes in education           statistics from the important research
provision since March 2020.                    they have conducted over the past year.

Moving between education settings, for         But particular thanks go to the parents
either a change of phase or for enhanced       and young people themselves, who
or different provision, is difficult for all   submitted written evidence but also
children, but how has this been impacted       spoke at virtual oral evidence sessions
by the pandemic and what has been the          in front of Members of Parliament and
specific experience for the children and       hundreds watching online across the
young people with additional needs?            country.

While transitions were the focus of the        We are grateful to each of you for
inquiry, it is clear that the needs and        sharing your experience. We hope this
experiences of young people and their          report and our representations can
families are wide-ranging, emotional           contribute to improving that experience
and often desperate. Many of the               during the ongoing pandemic and
submissions we received were raw and           beyond.
anxious – they were reaching out to seek
help for their child in a system that has      Olivia Blake MP
long needed change.                            Chair of the APPG for SEND

                                                          APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 3
Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...
“                                            “
              It is very sad to see that the lives and care
                    of our young people is regarded as so
                unimportant that the services we rely on
               for support... were deemed non-essential
                          and closed down for six months.

2 | APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021
Forgotten. Left behind. Overlooked - The experiences of young people with SEND and their educational transitions during the Covid-19 pandemic in ...
Foreword ........................................................................................... 3
Introduction ..................................................................................... 6
Executive summary ...................................................................... 8
Key recommendations ................................................................ 9
Overview of the written and oral responses..................... 11
Hearing their voice: young people and parents in their
own words ...................................................................................... 32
Summary of recommendations ............................................. 39
Appendices ....................................................................................... 51
Acknowledgments ....................................................................... 54

                                                                    APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 5
Members of the APPG for SEND                          combination of all of these
                                                  •   To make recommendations to
                                                      Government on its role in mitigating
 Olivia Blake MP                 Labour (Chair)       and remedying the impact that
                                                      Covid-19 has had upon children and
                                 Conservative         young people with SEND during
 Sally-Ann Hart MP
                                 (Vice Chair)         transition
 Rob Butler MP                   Conservative
                                                  The inquiry
 James Daly MP                   Conservative
                                                  The inquiry was launched at a meeting
 Marsha de Cordova MP Labour                      of the APPG for SEND on 15 July 2020.
                                                  From there, it was publicised through the
 Jack Dromey MP                  Labour           APPG’s website, the APPG’s mailing list
                                                  and on Twitter.
 Tim Farron MP
                                 Democrats        There was an open invitation to submit
                                                  written evidence and the terms of
 Emma Hardy MP                   Labour
                                                  reference for the inquiry were publicly
                                                  available on the APPG’s website. At all
 Julian Sturdy MP                Conservative
                                                  stages it was emphasised that hearing
                                                  directly from parents and young people
 James Sunderland MP             Conservative     was of particular importance.

                                                  An invitation to register interest to
Objectives of the inquiry                         submit evidence at the oral evidence
                                                  sessions was issued on 7 September and
•   To further build the evidence base
                                                  there were 49 offers received.
    of the impact that Covid-19 has had
    upon young people’s mental health
                                                  In each oral evidence session, the group
    and wellbeing during transition
                                                  sought to hear from at least one young
•   To further build the evidence base
                                                  person and one parent as they felt it
    of the impact that Covid-19 has had
                                                  was important to hear directly of their
    upon learning outcomes during
                                                  experiences. To facilitate the evidence
                                                  of young people, the group contacted
•   To examine the impact that Covid-19
                                                  national organisations representing and
    has had upon children and young
                                                  supporting young people with special
    people with SEND during transition,
                                                  needs and disabilities. We are thankful to
    specifically in relation to the social
                                                  these organisations for facilitating and
    and emotional wellbeing within the
                                                  supporting the young people to give oral
•   To establish where the capacity and
    responsibility to address the impact
                                                  This is primarily qualitative research,
    of Covid-19 lies, whether this be with
                                                  with written and oral submissions to tell
    the Government, the sector, parents
                                                  a story. We have collated quantitative
    and young people themselves or a
                                                  research that was submitted.

6 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
Key dates for the inquiry

Date                        Event

                            Inquiry launched at meeting of the
                            APPG for SEND and written evidence
15 July 2020
                            invited. Terms of reference for the
                            inquiry available on the APPG’s website.

                            Invitation to submit oral evidence and
7 September 2020            confirmation of the dates for 4 APPG
                            meetings with oral evidence sessions.

                            First oral evidence session with a focus
23 September 2020
                            on communication and interaction.

                            Second oral evidence session with a
14 October 2020
                            focus on cognition and learning.

                            Third oral evidence session with a focus
11 November 2020            on social, emotional and mental health

                            Deadline for submission of written
15 November 2020

                            Fourth oral evidence session with a
2 December 2020
                            focus on sensory and/or physical needs.

                                       APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 7
Executive summary
Contributors to this inquiry have used       Delays in the process of assessing for
powerful words to describe how young         and implementing Educational and
people with SEND and their families          Health Care (EHC) Plans impacted
have felt during the Covid-19 pandemic:      on the transitions of young people
forgotten, left-behind and overlooked.       with SEND. This meant they started
                                             in a new setting without the provision
The Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the      they required or, in some cases, not
problems and issues that were already        attending school. Not being able to visit
present in the SEND system.                  new settings increased the anxiety of
                                             transitions for young people with SEND.
The manner and speed in which
the lockdown and closure of school           Changes to the school set-up and
happened had a negative impact on            staffing provision has caused anxiety and
children and young people with SEND          disruption which has been felt acutely by
and their families. Many were left without   children with SEND.
                                             Specialist resources and support that are
Funding for SEND provision has been of       available for young people with SEND
long-term concern with local authorities,    in school settings cannot be replicated
school settings and families reporting       in the home environment, which has an
deficits in the high-needs budget.           impact on their ability to learn.
The impact on schools of Covid-19
related costs and losses of income has       Therapists and technicians who support
exacerbated this crisis.                     the provision for young people with
                                             SEND have in many cases not been
The government guidance for special          allowed on to school sites due to Covid
schools and alternative provision was        restrictions.
frequently published later than guidance
for mainstream schools. This led settings    There are some positive experiences
and young people with SEND to be seen        from the impact of the pandemic on
as, and feel like, an “afterthought”.        learning which emphasises how every
                                             child has unique needs. However, they
The Coronavirus Act and the reduction        are positive because they mitigate
in requirements of local authorities and     existing issues and problems.
schools to make ‘reasonable endeavours’
has had a negative impact of the support     Mental health of young people with
available for young people with SEND         SEND, and that of their families, has
and their families. There is concern that    been widely impacted by the pandemic.
this impact could be long-lasting.           Anxiety was frequently reported.

In some cases, risk assessments were         The Government and Department for
used to refuse attendance in school          Education did not do enough to support
for young people with SEND. These            children and young people with SEND
assessments were often conducted             during Covid-19. Our most vulnerable
without the input of families or the         children were failed and schools and
young people themselves.                     families were left to pick up the pieces.

8 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
Key recommendations
1. That the Department for Education         6. That urgent funding is given to
   ensures that all future guidance             support the mental health of young
   pertaining to schools and other              people with SEND as part of recovery
   educational settings are fully               from the pandemic. That all mental
   cognisant of the complex range               health provision is fully accessible for
   of needs and challenges for SEND             young people with SEND and tailored
   children, schools, families and carers.      to their needs.
   Critically, that such guidance is
   timely and considered as a priority       7. An urgent review of high-needs
   both during national emergencies             funding is undertaken. This has been
   and as we emerge from the current            long-called for, but the pandemic
   lockdown measures.                           has highlighted issues in the funding
                                                of provision for SEND. Funding will
2. That an urgent and time-bound                be crucial in the recovery from the
   parliamentary review is undertaken           pandemic.
   by government in order to assess
   the impact which Covid-19 has had         8. That the Secretary of State for
   upon children with SEND in order             Education publishes the long-awaited
   to ensure that the support provided          SEND review and commits to working
   as we recover from the global                with the APPG SEND and allied
   pandemic is focussed on the most             APPG’s in order to ensure that SEND
   vulnerable. Such a review to include         Children and Young People are placed
   all stakeholders including children          at the centre of government’s policies
   and young people, parents and carers         and decision making.
   and organisations with a legitimate
   interest.                                 9. That support for children and young
                                                people with SEND must be a feature
3. That new and additional funding is           of all future pandemic planning.
   made available in the short, medium
   and long-term to support SEND
   children and young people with the
   Covid-19 recovery.

4. Specific funding to be given to
   addressing the delays and backlog
   in the process of assessments for
   Educational and Health Care (EHC)

5. That the process of applying and
   assessing for EHC Plans is made
   simpler and more compassionate.
   That families should not have to fight
   for support for their child, even more
   so in a pandemic.

                                                        APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 9
                      My input was added once the decision
                          that my son had to stay home had
                                        already been made.

10 | APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021
Overview of the written and oral
Learning at school during the                                  not given a ‘choice’, however false,
                                                               whether to attend school or learn at
initial lockdown
                                                               home. Respondents to a survey2 by
                                                               Adoption UK “expressed frustration” that
Despite children with Education Health
                                                               places were not offered despite their
Care (EHC) plans being one of the
                                                               child meeting the criteria. This was felt
groups able to access learning at school
                                                               to add to challenges caused by previous
during the initial lockdown, several of the
                                                               disruptions to a child’s education.
submissions said that this was not the
                                                               The Children’s Services Development
                                                               Group (CSDG), whose members
A survey1 by 1Voice, a charity that
                                                               collectively operate over 90 special
supports users of augmentive and
                                                               schools as well as providing foster care
alternative communication (AAC), found
                                                               and children’s homes placements for
that 83% of respondents did not access
                                                               young people with complex needs,
school at all between March and July.
                                                               reported that they became aware that a
They cited that this was due to their
                                                               number of non-member special schools
medical vulnerability and the increased
                                                               had to cease provision during the first
risk they face because of their personal
                                                               lockdown and asked children to return
care needs which meant that school felt
                                                               to their families. In some instances, this
too risky. Respondents to the survey
                                                               was sadly triggered by local authority
reported feeling ‘forced to choose’ to
                                                               commissioning decisions. (CSDG)
keep them at home, which left them
without care support because the lack
of testing meant the risk to life took                         Support stopped or reduced
                                                               The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in
Ambitious about Autism also cited                              the educational and therapeutic support
health fears due to co-occurring                               provided to children with SEND being
conditions or vulnerable members within                        reduced or stopped completely.
their families as a reason for pupils with
EHC plans not to access learning in                            Ambitious about Autism reported
school.                                                        that 80% of autistic young people and
                                                               their parents who responded to their
Careers Connects reported that even                            survey3 said that support they had been
with specialist settings remaining open                        accessing before the pandemic stopped
during lockdown, the attendance of                             or was reduced. This includes access
young people has been low, with many                           to vital services such as speech and
young people and parents choosing not                          language therapy, mental health support,
to attend and engage in learning.                              and respite care. Services have had to
                                                               alter, delay or remove provision entirely
Some young people and families were                            which has increased vulnerabilities.
1         1Voice: survey completed by 12 parent-carers or the young AAC users themselves, who are aged between 8 and 27.
2         Adoption UK: survey of 674 parents/carers of care-experienced and adopted children in early April 2020
3         Ambitious about Autism: survey of over 2000 autistic children and young people and parents/carers conducted
August   and September 2020

                                                                               APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 11
organisation with an aim to provide
Their submission contends that              better outcomes for children and young
the disadvantage faced by young             people with SEN. They found that
people with autism can be mitigated         families had witnessed a drastic decline
by exceptional support provided in          in usual SEND provision from the start
education, community services and           of lockdown, including all areas across
the perseverance of families, but the       education, health care, mental health,
capacity to do this has been further        respite care, and social care services.
reduced during the pandemic.                Almost all respondents to their survey
                                            reported that their family’s special needs
In oral evidence, Sense highlighted how     support was “significantly impacted” by
attending school is more than education.    the pandemic.
Attending school is often an opportunity
for children to receive treatment and       During an oral evidence session, Let
therapies and support from additional       Us Communicate, a volunteer-led,
experts such as speech and language         independent support group in East
therapists and other healthcare             London, told the inquiry that the NHS
professionals. Not being able to attend     providers of therapies such as speech
school has impacted on the ability of       therapy largely came to a halt. This is
children or families to access that vital   supported by the Local Government
care and support.                           Association (LGA) during their oral
                                            evidence, who pointed out that physical
The initial lockdown period from March      development has also been badly
2020 meant that many families lost          hit through not being able to access
their access to not only respite through    therapies.
education, but any other respite
packages of support they had in place.      The Royal College of Occupational
This put a huge strain on many families,    Therapists (RCOT) reported that face-
which still continues to impact on them.    to-face consultations were limited
(Sense)                                     during the initial phase of the pandemic
                                            in March 2020. Again, families with
1Voice found 58% of respondents to          vulnerable children are reluctant to
their survey had no care support at         receive people into their homes or
all between March and July. Only one        visit a healthcare setting even when it
respondent had the same hours of            is permitted. This has made it difficult
support as usual. 22% of those who did      for occupational therapists to address
continue to get some care had ‘a lot        the needs of young people with SEND,
less than usual.’ Without additional care   particularly physical needs that cannot
support, these young people depended        be met through virtual consultations,
on their parents for everything. The        for example reviewing and adjusting
complexity of their physical disabilities   specialist seating or hand splints to
means that they need support with           accommodate a child’s growth.
feeding, changing, toileting and
facilitation for interaction in online      They also described how social
environments: “The levels of physical       distancing regulations have impacted
and emotional stress these youngsters       the number of spaces that meet the
and their families have reported is         requirements for occupational therapists
enormous”. (1Voice)                         to conduct confidential conversations
                                            with young people, parents/carers and
SEN Talk is a London-based non-profit       educators. Furthermore, a number of
12 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
children’s occupational therapists were                        survey of 4,000 families that seven
redeployed to adult services at the start                      in ten parents said their child had
of the pandemic. Around one third of the                       difficulty understanding or completing
1500 occupational therapist respondents                        schoolwork, and around half said that
to an RCOT survey4 were deployed                               their child’s academic progress suffered.
elsewhere and others were unable to
work because they were shielding or                            Sense told the inquiry that parents had
unwell.                                                        reported that they have had no contact
                                                               at all from their child’s school whilst
A parent who gave oral evidence to the                         others have had work sent home from
inquiry said: “He needs physio, he needs                       school that they’re unable to access.
orthotics, he needs a dentist, he needs
speech and language therapy, yet it isn’t                      In response to unsatisfactory support
there. It’s gone. He is not prepared to                        from their mainstream primary school,
transition, he hasn’t the tools he needs to                    a parent/carer of a child with Autism
transition.”                                                   Spectrum Condition (ASD/C), Attention
                                                               Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD), and
A survey by Family Fund found that 62%                         Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA),
of families said formal support available                      replied: “School over Zoom just doesn’t
for their disabled or seriously ill children                   provide the required support for children
has decreased due to the Covid-19                              with complex needs who already
outbreak.                                                      struggle with communication and social
                                                               interaction.” (SENTalk)
“Through our helplines, Tribunal Support
Service and training we have heard that                        54% of respondents to the 1Voice
children and young people with SEND                            survey did not have work provided in an
did not receive adequate support upon                          accessible format. “A picture emerges
their transition to remote or a different                      from the responses of worksheets and
kind of education when educational                             web links being sent home which the
settings closed in March.” (IPSEA)                             learners’ physical disabilities meant
                                                               they could not access. The work ‘wasn’t
Accessibility of at home                                       adjusted at all’ and was ‘not in grid or
                                                               clicker.’ The online lessons were difficult
learning and differentiation
                                                               for AAC users to participate in.” (1Voice)
National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS)
                                                               In their submission, IPSEA concurred
reported that remote teaching may not
                                                               that children and young people with
be accessible to some deaf children
                                                               SEND found it difficult or were unable to
unless additional communication support
                                                               access education remotely, either online
is provided such as remote speech-
                                                               or on paper. This was because the work
to-text or sign language interpreters.
                                                               set was not appropriately differentiated,
“We believe it’s unacceptable that
                                                               was provided using software they could
accessibility continues to be an
                                                               not access and/or they did not receive
afterthought and would like to see a
                                                               special educational provision required
much stronger lead and encouragement
                                                               by their SEN that they would have had
from the Department in this area.”
                                                               at their setting (e.g. the support of
(National Deaf Children’s Society)
                                                               trained teaching assistant 1:1 under the
                                                               supervision of a qualified teacher).
National Autistic Society found in a
4        RCOT: survey of 1500 occupational therapists (including 175 occupational therapists working with children and young
people) in July 2020

                                                                               APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 13
Dinah, a deaf young person, gave oral        A parent told the inquiry, via an oral
evidence to the inquiry and spoke of the     evidence session, that: “We don’t, as
need to explain to new teachers what         parents, have access to that specialist
support you require, such as reminding       software. That’s all in schools, with
them to use the radio aid or to take off     speech and language therapists, it’s with
their masks: “That takes quite a lot of      the people who make the software.”
confidence, it can sometimes be a bit
embarrassing as well.”                      The National Autistic Society told
                                            how children who usually receive SEN
Special Needs Jungle, a volunteer           Support in school “fell into a gap in
parent-led blog for parents of children     provision” during lockdown and were
with SEND, surveyed over 1,000 parents      left without any additional support at all.
and carers in June 2020. Only 18% of        These children were mostly at home, and
respondents said that their child’s school parents reported that they were unable
had delivered enough SEND support to        to provide the specialist support their
enable their child to complete their work, child received at school to enable them
with appropriate differentiation identified to learn.
as a major issue. “A significant minority”
said they had received no work at all.      Costs for parents

Resources at home                            1Voice told how parents had reported
                                             buying spin bikes, hot tubs and ijoy
A key part of in-school learning are         riders out of “desperation” to keep
the resources available to children with     their young people as fit and healthy as
additional needs which support and           possible. Parents reported ‘huge delays’
enable their learning. While learning at     for new equipment, such as leg gaiters,
home, there were noticeable gaps in          to enable vital physical therapy at home.
access to these important resources.         A lack of space, equipment and support
NDCS reported that some deaf children        from NHS services means the physical
were told that they can’t take their radio   needs of these learners have not been
aids hearing technology home from            met during the pandemic, except for
school at this time, even though this        through the additional efforts of families
could support home learning.                 who have the resources to do this.

Sense reported that, for many children       Changes to routines
with complex disabilities, remote
solutions were not appropriate and           Both Ambitious about Autism and the
the impact of this was increased social      National Autistic Society highlighted the
isolation for those young people.            impact that the sudden changes caused
Furthermore, many of the educational         by the pandemic had on children and
resources and specialist support children    young people with autism. The National
with MSI need cannot be replicated           Autistic Society described the impact as
in the home. Accessible resources like       “disproportionate and devastating” due
Braille, Easy Read and Picture Exchange      to the intense anxiety that is felt around
Communication (PEC) symbol systems           unexpected change.
aren’t affordable or available to families
at home to continue learning and             Social aspects of school
outcomes. (Sense)

14 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
Dr Shepherd and Dr Hancock of the             Other activities around
University of Sussex found in their
survey of 502 carers that social
aspects of education (interactions
                                              Adoption UK reported that Covid-19
and communication) were the most
                                              restrictions have impacted the type of
affected by the learning at home during
                                              activities that were allowed in schools,
lockdown. Things like taking turns,
                                              which has resulted in an increase in
sharing, group activities and diverse
                                              challenging behaviour. They give the
conversations were not possible at
                                              example of one child in a specialist
                                              secondary social, emotional and mental
                                              health (SEMH) setting, whose parent
Royal College of Nursing highlighted
                                              said their behaviour had become more
the key role that being in school plays in
                                              challenging as the schooling is now more
helping young people with SEND learn
                                              “sedentary” and “academic” than before
social skills, self-value and confidence.
They will likely be unable to use
technology to get in touch with friends
and have limited social opportunities as      Communication between
a result.                                     schools and parents

Regional variations                           Let Us Communicate spoke in an oral
                                              evidence session about the need for
The differences in the experience of          better communication with parents:
young people with SEND between                “we’re often left in the dark”.
regions and areas was cited as a concern
by several contributors. National Deaf        Adoption UK reported that where
Children’s Society noted that online          communications between the setting
learning materials, transition support,       and home were frequent and effective
early intervention support and recovery       during the lockdown, the transition back
plans were available but “not consistently    to the setting has been more effectively
across England”. In particular, there were    managed and better supported.
gaps around the support for language
and communication.                            Government guidance

Sense also spoke of a lack of consistency,    Numerous contributors to this inquiry
with many Local Authority Sensory             cited the guidance produced by
Services sending equipment such as            government on SEND provision as an
radio aids home to children who were          issue, both in terms of its content as well
shielding. They raised a concern that         as the manner and timing in which it
insurance coverage may be a barrier to        was produced. A recurring theme is that
this equipment being taken home. They         SEND pupils and their needs have been
described a “postcode lottery” of SEND        an “afterthought”5 .
provision and urged the government
to revise its approach to local solutions     The changing guidance from
and create a guidance framework for           government has had an impact on
risk assessment that is appropriate,          young people with SEND, their families,
particularly for young people who are         and schools, particularly where routine
shielding.                                    is needed to support the young
                                              person. Ambitious about Autism said
5     Submissions from RCOT, PLASN and NAHT

                                                         APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 15
“       We’ve gone from 24/7 residential Monday
                   to Friday term-time and PA support at
                    weekends and holidays, to absolutely
                 nothing and home full-time. I’m a single
                  parent and feeling the strain physically,
                  emotionally, and financially. Nothing is
                                being done to support us.

16 | “Forgotten,
     APPG for SEND
                      Report Spring
communicating clearly with children
and their parents has been difficult                     NAHT cited the example that school
with the complexity and ever-changing                    transport guidance, required by pupils
nature of Government guidance. They                      and parents/families prior to the
also highlight that this guidance has                    summer recess in order to establish
been focussed on mainstream schools                      expectations for successful September
and colleges. They said many parents                     2020 educational transitions, was
and children have felt “forgotten and                    not published until August - well
left-behind” in decision-making about                    after the end of the summer term -
education.                                               creating wholly avoidable problems
                                                         for local authorities and providers in
National Deaf Children’s Society pointed                 communicating arrangements with
out that the Department for Education                    families.
failed to consult with organisations
representing children with sensory                       The content of DfE guidance is also an
impairments when seeking out feedback                    issue, suggested NAHT. Speaking about
on draft guidance.                                       the updated guidance provided at the
                                                         start of November 2020, NAHT said:
PLASN contended that decision making                     ”there was a sense that, once again, it
appeared to be centred around the                        was broadly mainstream predicated
needs of pupils in mainstream schools                    guidance that did not adequately
and reported a consensus amongst their                   consider special school and specialist
members that clearer, setting-specific                   setting needs in catering for pupils with
guidance was needed: “special schools                    SEND.”
needed to be prioritised by the UK
Government rather than treated as an                     NAHT said the consequences of delayed
after-thought.”                                          guidance suggests to SEND children,
                                                         their families and schools that they
IPSEA highlighted that the concerns                      are “an afterthought”. It also delays
of parents of children and young                         the ability of settings to meet their
people who live with someone whose                       pupils’ needs and puts the schools and
health is at a high risk if they contract                children at a disadvantage compared to
Covid-19 regarding their return to                       mainstream schools when purchasing
educational settings were not addressed.                 finite resources such as PPE.
Department for Education guidance on
how settings should approach situations                  The Royal College of Occupational
like this was initially unclear and not                  Therapists (RCOT) referred to the
updated in a timely manner. (IPSEA)                      inconsistencies between guidance
                                                         from the DfE and NHS England which
The timing of SEND specific guidance                     has caused problems for allied health
was also reported as an issue by NAHT.                   professionals employed by the NHS but
86% of respondents to an NAHT survey                     also working in schools. RCOT said it
in June 20206 did not agree that                         has been “confusing and, in some cases
Department for Education guidance had                    conflicting”. Timing is again raised by
been published in a timely manner and                    RCOT, who said occupational therapists
73% of respondents felt that the delays                  have been required to read and interpret
in producing appropriate DfE guidance                    information from both the DfE and NHS
had affected their setting’s ability to                  and implement guidance often with little
make effective planning decisions.                       notice.
6     NAHT survey of over 570 SEND school leaders, June 2020

                                                                    APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 17
Sense described the guidance around          and Health Care (EHC) Plan, they were
PPE for personal care support as             deemed to have met this duty if they
“insufficient”, which has resulted in many   had used “reasonable endeavours” to
young people with complex needs who          secure the provision. This temporary
require such care being unable to return     amendment was in place between 1 May
to school. They commented that it had        and 31 July 2020.
taken the DfE and Public Health England
“a significant proportion of time” to        National Deaf Children’s Society
review the guidance.                         expressed a concern that some families
                                             were being given messages implying
An oral submission from Great Minds          that their EHC plan can be ‘ignored’.
Together, a multidisciplinary wraparound
team supporting families, schools and        Sense reported that this change had
services, described the guidance as          a significant impact on many of the
“chaotic and not sustainable for our         planning processes required to support
schools’ professionals or parents and        an effective transition back to school for
carers”.                                     children and young people with SEND.

Government guidance recommended              Sense described the short and long
the use of class or year group bubbles       term impact of this amendment as
to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.      ‘significant’ for young people with SEND
However, as Pan London Autism School         and their families. They were left without
Network (PLASN) identified, this simply      vital care and support, and home
did not take into account the unique         learning tasks were not differentiated or
context of special schools, where pupils     accessible for their needs. Furthermore,
from different classes will be mixing on     Sense reported the impact it has had
school transport.                            on the schools, local authorities and
                                             clinical commissioning groups to plan
Special Needs Jungle said that a large       appropriately for these children to return
number of parents who commented              to school safely. Many of the children
during their June 2020 survey believed       that Sense supports have not had all the
that government had “abandoned or            support they are entitled to in their plan
neglected” children and young people         reinstated, even beyond the temporary
with SEND when responding to the             suspension.
                                             National Autistic Society also expressed
Coronavirus Act and                          concern over the long-lasting effects of
                                             this temporary suspension.
‘reasonable endeavours’
                                             Both National Autistic Society and IPSEA
The emergency powers provided to the
                                             reported that some local authorities were
government by the Coronavirus Act
                                             retrospectively applying the Amendment
2020 “watered down” the legislative
                                             Regulations to decisions and steps they
entitlements to support for children
                                             had been legally required to take before
and young people with SEND. Section
                                             the amendment came into force on 1
42 of the Children and Family Act 2014
                                             May. The Amendment Regulation caused
was amended so that rather than local
                                             delays to the EHC plans and meant that
authorities having a duty to deliver
                                             young people were unable to participate
the special educational and healthcare
                                             fully in decisions about their transitions
provision set out in a child’s Education
                                             to different phases and schools. (IPSEA)
18 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
Blanket policies                              of Covid, meaning I couldn’t attend the
                                              meetings that normally would happen so
Polly Sweeney, a lawyer specialising in       I had a few that were online.”
education, community care, healthcare
and medical treatment, told the inquiry       Polly Sweeney also reported a backlog
via oral evidence that she was seeing         of EHC plan assessments and decisions
too many cases where schools are              during oral evidence to the inquiry. She
applying blanket policies which are           claimed that one local authority was still
having discriminatory effects. She gave       dealing with assessments from 11 months
an example of generic letters being           earlier, emphasising that EHC plans were
sent for children to sign up to Covid-19      “vital” in ensuring educational transitions
behavioural policies that young people        can be supported and successful. She
with SEND would not be able to adhere         noted that delays and backlogs were a
to.                                           problem before the pandemic, but the
                                              relaxation of timescales would inevitably
                                              make the backlog worse. She said that
Delays in the EHCP process
                                              the guidance from government about
                                              how to deal with this backlog was not
1Voice reported that the Covid-19
                                              sufficient despite it being an inevitable
pandemic has caused delays to EHC plan
processes which have had a detrimental
effect on children’s education, including
                                              The need for early intervention was also
delays in finalising college places leading
                                              highlighted by Down Syndrome charity
in one case to a young person becoming
                                              Making Chromosomes Count. They
NEET (Not in Education, Employment or
                                              described the information provided to
                                              families who have a child with Down
                                              Syndrome as “sparse”, with many
National Deaf Children’s Society raised
                                              families not realising they can apply
concerns about the cancellation of
                                              for EHC plan assessment before pre-
routine audiology appointments, which
                                              school age. Making Chromosomes Count
can delay diagnosis and intervention,
                                              also contended that many families are
which will impact on language and
                                              “actively discouraged” from applying,
communication development later in
                                              with local authorities claiming that the
life. They said that there needs to be
                                              child is too young.
an urgent action plan to address this
backlog and emergency funding should
be provided.                                  Transitions

Dinah, a deaf young person, told the          The inability of young people with SEND
inquiry in oral evidence of her experience    to visit new settings due to their closures
of applying for an EHC plan. She              impacted heavily on their transitions.
described is as “a stressful, draining        Royal College of Occupational Therapists
and time-consuming process”. She              said this was particularly difficult for
highlighted the problems with not being       young people with physical and sensory
able to have face-to-face meetings            needs, and those who find change
during the process: “It felt as if a bunch    difficult. The consequence has been
of strangers were deciding my future          a delay in implementing tools and
based on what they knew about me on a         strategies to support their needs, and
piece of paper. The application process       taking longer to settle in.
was made a bit more difficult because

                                                         APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 19
Adoption UK reported that, due to the                       them.
pandemic, barriers have been created
to effective transitions in education for                   Transitions post-16
young people with SEND. Some were
transitioning with no plan in place, and                    Sense highlighted the case of one young
vital information had not been shared,                      person they were supporting, who was in
meaning that, in some cases, EHC Plans                      the middle of transition to college, which
were not in place.                                          had the added issue of moving between
                                                            local authorities for provision. Support
A parent of an AAC user told the inquiry                    had been available at his current school
via oral evidence how the change in staff                   but had been stopped at the last minute.
teams impacts her daughter: “Her TA’s,                      Covid-19 had caused delays in sending
they’re not being trained yet to properly                   the required paperwork and preparing
support her. And this just exacerbates                      for transition, which had resulted in the
a problem that happens anyway with                          new college being no longer able to
transition for children like my daughter,                   support him. Sense expressed concern
where each year when you change over                        for the long-term impact on this young
to a new staff team, it’s almost like they                  person if the situation could not be
go back to square one, re-training all the                  resolved.
TAs, unless you’re lucky enough to have
continuity, which is quite rare. When it’s                  Children’s Services Development
left to September that child is constantly                  Group (CSDG), a coalition of leading
losing probably about half a term every                     independent providers of care and
year. Obviously as you say Covid has                        specialist education services, reported
been a huge impact, but it does happen                      issues with transitions planning during
again and again anyway.”                                    the pandemic for young people
                                                            scheduled to leave their specialist
In oral evidence to the inquiry, Let Us                     provision, which created delays in their
Communicate spoke of young people                           move into adult services. They told
being “lost in the system” and “still                       how their members had experienced
waiting in transition”. This was due to                     pressure from local authorities to extend
ECH Plans not being drafted in time and                     placements for young people up to age
not able to progress because in-person                      21, without recourse to the resources
assessments were not possible. This                         required or consideration as to whether
resulted in some children not moving on                     this would really be in the best interests
to their secondary school placements in                     of the young person. A consequence
September.                                                  of this approach is that it creates
                                                            placement blockages, limiting future
Royal College of Nursing described                          access to specialist education and care
how the transition from primary to                          placements for younger children.
secondary school will have been
negatively impacted by not being able to                    In 2020, CSDG published its report
have transition days and typical end of                     ‘Destination Unknown: improving
school/leaving activities. Similarly, they                  transitions for care leavers and young
say if young people are leaving school                      people with SEND’7. This found that a
for adult services or employment then                       lack of consistent and effective transition
the lack of transition is going to make                     support for young people when they
this life event a lot more difficult for                    reach 18 and leave care and specialist
7       Destination Unknown: improving transitions for care leavers and young people with SEND
uk/2020/02/26/destination-unknown-improving-transitions-for-care-leavers-and-young-people-with-send/ (accessed March

20 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
education is resulting in unacceptable        following the first lockdown caused
life outcomes. CSDG’s own members             anxiety and concern for many young
have experienced instances where              people with SEND and their families.
support is removed at inappropriate           Ambitious about Autism said, via oral
times, making it very difficult for a young   evidence to the group, that 70% of
person to complete their education or         autistic children and young people and
be appropriately supported to live as         their parents and carers have lost sleep
independently as possible in an adult         worrying about their return to education
social care setting.                          and just over half weren’t confident
                                              that the support would be in place to
IPSEA told how intended educational           meet their needs when they return to
transitions were disrupted by local           education.
authorities and settings’ responses to the
pandemic, leaving children and young          The provision required by young people
people without suitable placements for        with SEND was often not in place for
longer.                                       their return to school in September
                                              2020. IPSEA described it as “lacking”
“My disabled son has missed out on            and reported that they had spoken
his final year at school. This has had a      to parents who said there was “no
negative effect on his mental well-being.     reintegration plan” and that support
He has had no transition into college, and    specified in the EHC plan would not be
I’m worried how he is going to cope”.         provided, including 1:1 support.
(Parent via Family Fund submission)
                                              Polly Sweeney also spoke of cases where
Career Connects found that some young         the provision outlined in EHC Plans was
people who were offered apprenticeship        not being delivered on the return to
opportunities and supported internship        school, particularly 1:1 assistance and
placements were told they were no             therapeutic support. She also highlighted
longer available due to the Covid-19          that there was a lack of targeted catch-
pandemic. Therefore, they have been left      up, which many pupils with SEND would
without a post-16 option. This has meant      need if they had been unable to access
that those young people have suffered         online learning while at home.
setbacks and this has again affected
their mental health and wellbeing.        “Going back to college, they didn’t have
                                          the ability to support me, so I couldn’t go
National Deaf Children’s Society reported back. If I had an Education Health Care
how the Treasury had announced            Plan they would have put things in place”
a package of measures to support          – a young person with cerebral palsy and
young jobseekers which include a new      learning difficulties via oral evidence.
Kickstart scheme for work placements,
an expansion of traineeships and more     In written evidence, IPSEA gave an
careers advisors. They emphasised the     example of a child who was meant to
importance that deaf children were        reintegrate into secondary school after
considered in such initiatives.           being home-educated for a few years.
                                          They needed the special educational
                                          provision in their EHC plan to be
Return to school post-first
                                          implemented to facilitate a successful
lockdown                                  transition. This did not happen “due
                                          to Covid restrictions at school”. They
The prospect of a return to school        needed a toilet pass but were told
                                                        APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 21
“      We have been very isolated. The initial
                  lockdown was very confusing to our

              children and now restrictions have been
                eased and they are expected to return
             to school without any support regarding
        transition etc. Their worlds were already very
                 confusing before coronavirus and are
                                    even more so now.

22 | “Forgotten, left-behind, overlooked”
they could not have one due to current        example of one pupil whose anxiety and
circumstances.                                school refusal started getting worse
                                              again because of this.
External specialists on school
sites                                         Alternative support for
Covid-19 restrictions and risk
assessments preventing external visitors      Many mainstream and specialist schools
into school is an issue which has been        did their best to support and aid
cited by several organisations and            transitions between settings during the
individuals who contributed.                  pandemic, with many offering virtual
                                              tours and support in lieu of the children
Sense found that whilst some children         and young people being able to visit
are now back at school, many settings         and spend time there. However, as with
were not allowing external professionals      online learning, there were accessibility
back in, resulting in children not having     issues for children and young people
access to important therapies. Sense          with SEND.
also gave an example of a school
refusing to allow a specialist technician     Royal College of Occupational Therapists
on site to fix a radio aid. They noted that   reported that some young people with
there was guidance which said this was        SEND found virtual tours stressful and
unacceptable but that there was little        may not have been able to generalize
accountability.                               information they were given to a “real-
                                              life context”. Some young people were
Schools being closed meant that               unable to access virtual tours due to
occupational therapists could not review      lack of access to the internet, limited
accessibility and classroom settings          technical skills within their household
ahead of transitions in September.            and anxiety about using unfamiliar
“Even when schools reopened to more           technology. The transitions of young
students from June 2020, many were            people were affected by not having the
reluctant to receive visitors including       face-to-face meetings, as it was more
occupational therapists.” The result of       difficult for occupational therapists
this is that children returned to school      to build up a relationship with young
in September without the equipment            people during virtual visits and to
or support they required being in place.      identify students/families who would
(RCOT)                                        benefit from additional support.

A parent of a child who uses AAC              A parent via oral submission spoke of
told the inquiry via oral evidence that       how her daughter could not go and visit
“none of those staff have been able to        university as a result of lockdown: “She
be properly trained in using her AAC          had to move into accommodation having
because as well as other complications,       not been able to see it - we did see a
they haven’t wanted external therapists       virtual tour, fortunately there was one
to go in. And so her TAs are not being        online - but it’s not quite the same as
trained yet to properly support her.”         getting a feel for it as well.”

IPSEA highlighted that parents were also      There were some positives to a virtual
not allowed on site to help their children    transition identified by Essex Family
transition back to school. They cite the      Forum. They spoke of students from the

                                                        APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 23
Multi-Schools Council who said they had     as caring for a child or young person
felt very well supported by transition      with SEND in England, found:
from primary to secondary school. A
benefit included that virtual tours were    •   75% of respondents said that their
available to watch - and, if desired, re-       child had not had a risk assessment,
watch - from home with family and               or they did not know if one had been
friends.                                        conducted.
                                            •   Of the parents whose children had
A head teacher of a special school in           undergone a risk assessment, only 9%
London gave oral evidence as to the way         said they had been fully involved.
his school had adapted their transition     •   Even if they knew a risk assessment
process and identified some positives:          had taken place, most parents were
“Because I couldn’t risk Covid mixing -         not involved at all.
we’re a Covid-secure school - we invited    •   In their comments a number
families in on the Saturday and, to be          of parents indicated that a risk
honest, it was so good because we could         assessment had been used to actively
actually focus our time on the families.”       dissuade them from sending their
He spoke about how they had arranged            child in or to prevent their child’s
for autistic young people to have special       attendance.
visits where they focussed on important
things to make them feel settled, such      Children and young people with
as where to go and where to hang their      education, health and care (EHC) plans
coat.                                       were at home experiencing the above
                                            difficulties because their setting refused
Masks                                       attendance. (Special Needs Jungle)

For children who had been able to be        IPSEA were also told of settings refusing
in school or return to school, Sense        attendance based on risk assessments
reported that the wearing of masks          with little or no input from parents.
had made it difficult for some children     Settings were also unlawfully excluding
to participate. Children who rely on        children in response to a perceived
lipreading have had their ability to        inability to meet their needs “attempting
understand their teachers and other         to rely on Covid-19 as a reason to justify
pupils affected.                            this”. IPSEA also reported parents’
                                            concerns that risk assessments were
A deaf young person told the inquiry        done without their knowledge and many
during oral evidence that: “Socially it     were not aware of the requirements for
can be quite isolating with the whole       them to be done. Furthermore, they cite
masks thing because at the moment my        several examples where local authorities
school has rules that in communal places    have acted unlawfully in putting EHC
everyone needs to wear masks… I’m           Plan assessments on hold due to the
quite heavily reliant on lipreading.”       pandemic.

                                            Sense also report that risk assessments
Risk assessments and refusing
                                            were also often conducted without
attendance                                  input from families and they were
                                            used “sporadically”. Had there been
A survey by Special Needs Jungle,           some opportunity to discuss and work
conducted in June 2020, of more than        together, then perhaps those children
1,000 families who identified themselves    could have returned to school rather
24 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
than “blanket decisions” being made          attested that there were several factors
about their needs. (Sense via oral           affecting whether children could return
evidence)                                    to school, such as the school refusing
                                             them attendance, the pupil’s anxiety,
The lack of a proper framework for           illegal exclusion, and no suitable space in
completing the risk assessments meant        school for a medical device. “I’m almost
that there was regional interpretation       certain that nobody knows this actual
and variation. Sense expressed concerns      exact figure at all, as was the case even
that risk assessments were being used        prior to the recent pandemic”. (Emma
as a means of keeping children with          Mander, Great Minds Together, via oral
additional needs at home, rather than        evidence)
making reasonable adjustments at
school, which has meant some children        Sense were concerned about the impact
being unable to return.                      that not being at school would have
                                             on the young person’s support plan, as
Aerosol Generating Procedures                assessments would be missed if they
                                             were at home. This has particularly
Royal College of Nursing highlighted an      impacted young people who were
area of risk in specialist school settings   transitioning to new settings, as they
where children in schools require aerosol    were not able to start in September as
generating procedures (AGPs) such as         planned due to the required support not
oral suction, tracheal suction or long       being in place.
term ventilation. These pupils are only
able to access school if the school          Children who are shielding
environment has adequate provision, the
staff have been ‘FIT’ tested, and the risk   Sense also raised concerns about
assessment supports their safety and         children who were having to shield at
that of their fellow class members. RCN      home because of complex medical
members reported that the guidance           needs and being extremely clinically
from Public Health England was very          vulnerable. They are missing out on
difficult for the school to adhere to.       important therapies, but also achieving
(RCN)                                        person-centred outcomes, such as
                                             learning independent living skills, if they
Sense also expressed concern for pupils      are having to shield for a long period of
who require AGPs, describing their           time, Sense contended that they must be
return to school as “challenging”, with      given the support to continue achieving
many unable to return in September and       those outcomes at home.
missing further learning. Sense contends
that the “watering down” of rights and       Sense also raised an issue about the
entitlements to support under Section        guidance on shielding not appropriately
42 of the Children and Families Act, have    recognising the needs of those children
led to a lack of forward planning in terms   who were required to shield. Many
of identifying spaces to carry out AGPs      families have received no risk assessment
in schools.                                  or alternative support from their
                                             local authority throughout the Spring
Pupils unable to return to                   lockdown.

In oral evidence, Great Minds Together

                                                        APPG for SEND Report Spring 2021 | 25
Funding                                      settings due to the exceptional costs
                                             they are incurring as a result of the
The issue of funding was raised by the       pandemic. However, they assert that this
Local Government Association (LGA)           will likely be even more acute in SEND
in both their written and oral evidence.     and alternative provision settings. This
They said that councils are continuing       may lead to schools not being able to
to report the pressures on the High          maintain acceptable levels of safety.
Needs funding block as “one of the
most serious financial challenges” they      “This does not appear to be due to any
face. They expressed concern that local      lack of will or commitment from pupils,
authorities would be unable to meet          parents/families nor schools/settings -
their statutory duties to support children   more frequently it appears to be due to a
with SEND without additional funding         deficit in each sector related to capacity,
being made available.                        inadequate resource, a paucity of
                                             mechanisms for effective collaboration
“If councils do not receive enough           and limited understanding between
funding to cover the high cost of SEND       sectors as to what is required for all
they will not have the resources to          our pupils to maintain their wellbeing,
allocate extra funding to highly inclusive   engagement, progress and learning –
schools that take higher than average        this has become particularly clear during
numbers of pupils with additional needs”.    Covid-19 (NAHT)”
(LGA, oral submission)
                                             Local councils
Children’s Services Development Group
(CSDG) noticed that the pandemic             Local Government Association (LGA)
resulted in commissioning decisions          reported a positive relationship between
being made on the basis of short-            schools and local authorities which has
term funding concerns. They gave the         flourished during Covid-19. They provide
example of placements being ended            the example of councils supporting
sooner than planned “to mitigate funding     schools to interpret the guidance from
obligations for young people with            the DfE, and that it is important that the
SEND”. This meant that children had to       positive relationships continue.
return home unexpectedly which meant
there wasn’t time for a transition to be     LGA also referenced the government’s
planned and support put in place.            SEND review and, from that, there needs
                                             to be a clear accountability network
CSDG also explained that High Needs          created and flexibility around funding.
funding has been a developing problem        They said that the pandemic has shown
over many years and is something             the challenges that councils, schools and
that has been “exacerbated” by the           health care providers currently have in
pandemic. This has led to regional           fulfilling their duties to support children
variations based on access to services,      with SEND.
available funding and “placement
decisions typically now being based on       Agencies working together
short-term cost considerations, rather
than the full needs of the child”.           Parents painted a picture of the
                                             difficulties they encounter when trying
NAHT referenced the funding issues           to achieve the support their children’s
that are being faced by all education        needs. One parent, in oral evidence,

26 | Forgotten. Left-behind. Overlooked.
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