Back to School Update

I hope that you have all managed to have a summer break although for many of you it will have been very different from other summers. I know many of you will have spent some time planning for the new term and trying to get to grips with what the “new normal” might look like. Over the summer there have been new documents, information and guidance from a number of sources. I have collated all those that are pertinent to SEND in case you missed them over the summer.

Assessment Update – Standards and Testing Agency – 14th July

Phonics for incoming Y2 upwards

  • schools will administer a past version of the check to year 2 pupils during the second half of the 2020 autumn term;
  • Year 2 pupils who do not meet the expected standard in the autumn check will be expected to take the statutory check in June 2021.
  • Incoming Y3 pupils will not take the test.

Engagement model

  • For those children operating against P-scales 1 to 4, the engagement model will now become statutory in September 2021.
  • Next academic year will be a transition year and either P-levels or the engagement model may be used.


  • Schools that have not chosen to be early adopters of the EYFS reforms will use the current 2017 EYFS framework for 2020-21.
  • Schools can opt into the reception baseline as an early adopter.

Key stage one and two statutory assessments

  • All existing statutory key stage 1 and 2 assessments to return in 2020/21, following their usual timetable
    • end of key stage 1 and key stage 2 assessments (including tests and teacher assessment)
    • phonics screening check for Y1 as usual
    • year 4 multiplication tables check
    • statutory trialling.


  • The DfE guidance on taking exams during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has been updated six times since its publication in March 2020.
  • The latest update on 27th August contained information on the awarding of grades and autumn exams in 2020 and exams in summer 2021. It also includes information about autumn exams.

Temporary amendment to timescales for EHC needs assessments – Until 25th September

From 1 May to 25 September 2020 (inclusive) the Regulations which provide most of the statutory timescales for the EHC needs assessments and plan processes have been modified. The effect of this modification is that where it is not reasonably practicable or impractical to conclude an action within the statutory timescale because of the incidence or transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the local authority or other body to whom that deadline applies will instead have to complete the process either as soon as reasonably practicable or in line with any other timing requirement in the regulations being amended.

The timescales in the regulations being amended include the following:

  • the handling of requests for EHC needs assessments and re-assessments, decisions whether to issue plans and the preparation, issue, review and amendment of plans
  • annual reviews of EHC plans (but not the dates for annual reviews relating to transfers between phases of education)
  • the processes relating to mediation
  • the processes where there is a change of local authority or health commissioning body for a plan
  • the process for a local authority reviewing for the first time the making and use of direct payments from a Personal Budget that is part of an EHC plan
  • the action that a local authority must take when the First-tier Tribunal makes an order or that the local authority and health commissioning body must take when the First-tier Tribunal makes non-binding recommendations in respect of certain types of health and social care matters within an EHC plan (as part of the National Trial)

This was confirmed in the following document – Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus (COVID-19) which was updated on 26th August.

This guidance outlines the temporary changes to special educational needs and disability legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This update confirms that the Amendment Regulations (modification of specified timings) will expire on 25 September 2020.

Thousands of places created in new special free schools – Press Release – 19th July

The DfE have announced that up to 3,000 new school places are to be created for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), providing tailored support and specialist equipment.

Staffed by specially trained teachers, the 35 new special free schools are expected to open from September 2022 onwards and will give pupils with complex needs access to equipment that supports their individual needs such as sensory equipment and communication aids.

 Coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium – 20th July

This guidance contains information for schools on the universal catch-up premium for 2020 to 2021 and the National Tutoring Programme. It includes how much funding schools will get and how it should be spent.

Schools’ allocations will be calculated on a per pupil basis, providing each mainstream school with a total of £80 for each pupil in years reception through to 11.

Special, AP and hospital schools will be provided with £240 for each place for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND): Education Committee publishes Government response to report – 23rd July

The Education Committee have published the Government response to its report on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The report, published by the Committee of the last Parliament in October 2019, followed an 18-month inquiry into Government reforms aimed at placing children and young people at the heart of the SEND system.

It concluded that while the reforms to the support for children and young people contained in the Children and Families Act 2014 were the right ones, poor implementation has put local authorities under pressure, left schools struggling to cope and, ultimately, thrown families into crisis.

Special Needs Jungle have produced a comprehensive report on this response.

Recovery, Re-introduction and Renewal: Safe and Successful Returns to School – Whole School SEND

The COVID-19 episode has exacerbated the need for high-quality and evidence-informed information to support education professionals to successfully re-engage pupils with learning after a period of disruption or trauma. This handbook is grounded in psychological research and theory and seeks to outline essential information in a clear and accessible manner that will be relevant to colleagues in different roles, including those in leadership or classroom-based and across different phases, including primary and secondary.

There is a webinar to help you make the most of this resource.

School attendance: guidance for schools – Updated 6th August

This document sets out how schools can use pupil registers and attendance codes, including in circumstances due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and set school hours and term dates.

This updated version has added an ‘Addendum’ document which indicates how schools should be recording attendance in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) during the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

The main guidance document has also been updated with information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and edited ‘details’ text to explain the role of the 2 documents for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Wellbeing for education return grant – Correspondence – 12th August

The DfE have announced £8m additional funding for local authorities to support pupils’ and students’ wellbeing and psychosocial recovery as they return to full-time education in autumn 2020.

The grant is non-ring-fenced and it is intended that local authorities use the funds to support the aims of the Wellbeing for Education Return project.

The Department expects local authorities to:

  • Adapt the Wellbeing for Education Return training package, which will be shared with local authorities in September, to include local context and information about local services.
  • Make accessible, and deliver, the adapted Wellbeing for Education Return training package to all state-funded education settings in their area in the first half of autumn term 2020.
  • Provide ongoing support to all state-funded settings in their area, on promoting and supporting mental health and wellbeing over the next 6 months.

You can find out how much your local authority will be receiving in the letter at the following address:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): home test kits for schools and FE providers – 26th August

This guidance is for schools and further education (FE) providers on the initial supply of coronavirus (COVID-19) home testing kits for pupils, teachers and staff.

From 26 August, all schools and FE providers should have received an initial supply of 10 home test kits. Home test kits should only be offered to individuals in the exceptional circumstance that you believe an individual may have barriers to accessing testing elsewhere.

However, the best and fastest way for students or staff to access a test is to visit a testing site.

Guidance on replenishment of kits will be published shortly. Once this is published, you will be able to re-order these kits. There will be a cap on how many and how frequently orders can be placed, based on pupil numbers for your education setting.

School exclusion – Updated 27th August

This is statutory guidance on the exclusion of pupils from local-authority-maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units. This updated version includes changes to the school exclusion process during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including changes to the exclusions process from 25 September 2020, clarification on the conditions for virtual governing boards and review panels and procedural guidance on virtual meetings.

Guidance for full opening: schools – Updated 28 August

This very extensive guidance document which was originally published on 2nd July has been updated three times and the latest update contains extensive changes including:

  • managing confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst the school community
  • the framework for supporting transport to and from schools
  • pupils who are shielding or self-isolating
  • use of face coverings in schools
  • actions for all schools and local authorities with regards to recording attendance and absence
  • employer health and safety and equalities duties
  • support available for schools with regard to supply teachers
  • performance management and appraisal for teachers
  • music, dance and drama in school
  • wraparound provision and extra-curricular activity
  • physical activity in schools
  • new resources available for pupil wellbeing and support
  • behaviour expectations
  • primary assessment
  • additional resources available for delivering remote education
  • changes to SEND legislation

Keeping children safe in education – DfE – New guidance from 1st September 2020

This new guidance which was published in June with come into force on 1st September 2020. Staff training and school policies need to be updated with the relevant changes.

Annex H at the back of the KCSIE document highlights the substantive changes from KCSIE September 2019–2

National SENCO Survey 2020

The third national SENCO survey is now available. They are keen to explore the longer-term trends of the SENCO workforce and they hope to identify SENCO support needs, as well as capture and disseminate effective practice, particularly during this exceptional period.

in addition to exploring the SENCO role in general, they also want to capture the experiences of SENCOs and schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as consider how the pandemic may impact the role, and provision for children with SEN, going forward.

Please take time to complete the survey – your views matter!

COVID-19 SEND Review Guide and Returning to school after a period of absence

These are two new resources from Whole School SEND.

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