In relation to the Covid-19 pandemic
SENSAP, Learning Inclusion and our administrative teams will continue to work from home (in line with government guidance) to support settings and families at this critical time and will aim to respond as quickly as we can to any communications or queries.
In light of the government’s social distancing directions, schools and other education providers may be wondering where they stand in relation to holding Annual Reviews of EHC plans or other related meetings. We are awaiting further advice from the DfE at this time regarding all statutory EHC processes and will update our guidance accordingly if clear directives are released.
In the meantime we will use our best endeavours to continue to deliver services in order to meet our statutory obligations. Please be aware that many of our teams are suffering staff shortages and that standard processes will be affected. We will continue to put the child or young person’s needs at the centre of our decision making and work in their best interests. We do anticipate that there will be disruption as services cannot continue to operate in their usual way and ask that you work with us during this unprecedented time.
We hope the following guidance is useful when deciding how to proceed.
Annual Reviews of EHC plans
Reviews have 2 requirements:
1. to review progress toward the outcomes in the EHCP and
2. to recommend any amendments to the EHCP.
Reviews must be held within 11 months of the first final EHCP and then on an 11 month rolling basis from the date of each review, this is to ensure that the review process is completed within 12 months of the previous review date.
The only exception to this is children under 5 years of age when reviews must be convened 5 months after the first final EHCP and then on a 5 month rolling basis from the date of each review.
Graduated approach / termly update meetings
The Code of Practice states that “schools should talk to parents regularly to set clear outcomes and review progress… A record of the outcomes, action and support agreed should be kept and shared…” There is no national or local prescribed format for this meeting, nor any specific timescales other than “schools should meet with parents at least three times each year”.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Virtual meetings – i.e. holding a ‘process’ rather than a ‘meeting’
Both of the annual review requirements can be satisfied by having a discussion via phone or email with your attendees (particularly if it’s likely to be a small meeting). You can collate people’s opinions, feedback and comments on your normal annual review meeting form and send this in to us as normal by uploading via Synergy Gateway or emailing SENSAP@leeds.gov.uk. Please make it clear on the paperwork that you’ve used a ‘virtual approach’ to convene the meeting.
2. Remote meetings – i.e. holding a meeting using accessibility technology
If you have the necessary facilities, e.g. Skype or Google Hangouts you could ask attendees to log or dial into a conference call meeting and continue as normal. Again, use the normal paperwork and send to us via Synergy Gateway or emailing SENSAP@leeds.gov.uk. Please make it clear on the paperwork that the meeting was convened via conference call.
3. Postponement – i.e. deferring to a later date
If no other options are available and it’s not possible for the parents/carers and young people to access technology or if the parent/carer or young person is particularly insistent that they would like to have a face-to-face meeting then you can consider postponing until the schools and settings reopen. Please ensure that you log and save the parental request to postpone the meeting. Please make it clear on the paperwork that it was postponed due to the covid-19 pandemic and include parents’ written request to postpone the meeting.
Some general points to consider
• Where possible, use online methods of communication to share documents and paperwork, in order to limit contamination.
• Remember where using online methods to ensure you are compliant with your school/provider’s policy on information sharing in line with GDPR responsibilities.
• If we have consulted with you regarding a child’s placement, please continue to respond within the deadlines stated, so that we can continue to keep casework moving and reduce general delays.
Requesting EHC needs assessments
• We strongly urge you to reconsider the timing any requests for EHC assessments until social distancing directives are relaxed as in many cases our advice providers will not be able to conduct observations or appropriate direct assessments.
• We would also ask that you have supportive conversations with parents who are considering submitting a request for an EHC needs assessment. The quality of any assessment undertaken during this period of enforced social distancing will be severely impacted and unless absolutely vital we would urge them to submit their request when schools are open and social distancing directives have been relaxed.
Next Steps Meetings
• There is no statutory requirement to convene next steps meetings therefore all meetings are cancelled until further instructions are received from central government. You will however continue to be sent documents relating to EHC needs assessments so please respond in writing in line with the timescales set out in the covering letter.
If you are awaiting a new, amended EHC Plan following a review
• We are aware that there is a backlog of EHC Plans awaiting amendments and are working hard to try and reduce this backlog as quickly as possible, whilst ensuring they are of a good standard and compliant with the relevant legislation.
Year 11 pupils and school leavers
• We appreciate that many young people in Year 11 and leaving school may be anxious about how the cancelled GCSEs may affect them.
• As soon as more information is available from the government, we will ensure that it is made available.
• If a child in Year 11 already has an EHC plan then we will continue to aim to issue a new, amended, Final EHC Plan which names the sixth form, college or other institution to which they will transfer in September 2020, by 31st March 2020 in line with the national deadline however this deadline is likely to be delayed.
Thank you for all your support and effort at this difficult time, we know how much everyone is doing and we really appreciate it!