(Updated 29th May 2020)

Government Guidance regarding the education and support of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) has been changing constantly throughout the COVID-19 situation, and we are doing our best to keep up with all the changes and what that means for families in Essex.     These are some FAQs you might need find useful at the moment.

My child has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan), can I send them to school?

Throughout the Coronavirus outbreak, educational settings have been asked to ensure that vulnerable children which includes children with an EHC Plan can attend (following a risk assessment that determines their needs can be met as safely or more safely met in the educational environment.

From 1st June 2020 – educational settings are preparing for wider opening:

1st June           Special Schools & Hospital Schools

Phased Return without focus on specific year groups and informed by risk assessments

Key Points on the Wider Opening Schools from 1st June 2020

15th June         Specialist Post-16 Institutions (Schools & Colleges)

Phased return without a focus on specific year groups or proportion of learners and informed by risk assessments


1st June            Mainstream Early Years Settings and Primary Schools
Children in target year groups – Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, alongside priority groups (vulnerable children and children of critical workers)

15th June         Mainstream Secondary, Sixth Form and Further Education Colleges

Educational settings should continue to offer places to all children and Young People with EHC plans whose risk assessment determines this is the right of action.
Pupils with EHC Plans who have not been attending and are in eligible year groups

Key Points on the wider opening of schools can be found here


How are vulnerable children defined?

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak vulnerable children and young people are defined as those who:

  • are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) Plan whose needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment
  • have been assessed as otherwise vulnerable by education providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who are therefore in need of continued education provision. This might include children on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services, adopted children, or those who are young carers, and others at the provider and local authority discretion

Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be as safe or safer at an educational setting, it may be more appropriate for them to attend the educational setting.

Many children and young people who have an EHC plan can remain safely at home. Where the risk assessment determines a child or young person with an EHC plan will be safer at home, it may be more appropriate for them to stay at home.


What is the “Reasonable Endeavours” duty?

The Government have temporarily modified an ‘absolute duty’ on local authorities and commissioning health bodies to provide what is written in an EHC plan to making ‘reasonable endeavours’ to provide all or some of the provision written in a child or young person’s EHC plan. The duty will be renewed one month at a time.

The Local Authority, Essex County Council, need to have discussions with all families about how to support children and young people with EHC Plans at this time and how everyone can work together to make a temporary plan. This is called a Reasonable Endeavours Plan.

How and when will a Reasonable Endeavours Plan for my child be discussed with me?

In the first instance, the discussion will be between the family, the child or young person and the child’s educational setting, and the setting has until 12th June 2020 to arrange this conversation.

ECC’s SEND teams (Educational Psychologists, Inclusion Partners, Engagement Facilitators and SEND Operations partners) will be part of the discussions and will support all Early Years settings, schools and colleges to make sure every young person and family is supported to make a plan.

What will the conversation cover?

The discussion will think about:

  • Where?
    Where is the most suitable place for your child to be at the moment?
  • What?
    What is written in your child’s EHC plan?
    What can we continue to deliver?
    What do we need to change or adapt?
  • How?
    How can we make this happen – for example, virtual rather than face-to-face?
  • Who?
    Who is available to support you and your child? For example a learning assistant under virtual supervision rather than a specialist therapist or teacher.
  • When? How often and how regularly can we deliver parts of your child’s plan?

What will happen after the conversation?
The conversation and temporary plan will be recorded in writing and a copy will be kept by you, the educational setting and Essex County Council as a record of what was agreed.

When will the plan be reviewed?
This plan will need to be reviewed frequently and during the discussion, you will agree how often to review the plan. You will work through the cycle of ‘assess, plan, do, review’ during the time that the temporary legislation is in place.

Please visit our Updates from Essex County Council page for more details


Can families who opt to keep child at home change their minds if circumstances change and, if so, how can they flag this?

Schools know that this may change and how parents can inform the school as when the needs of the child/young person changes should be outlined within the temporary plan.


My child did not have a school placement before COVID-19 – who will carry out the Reasonable Endeavours conversation?


Awaiting provision – The local SEND Operations will work with the family directly

Children missing education – The local SEND Operations will work with the family directly

Home Education – Educational Psychology/Inclusion team will be supporting families directly.



What will happen if schools do not have enough staff?
Some schools may be unable to open especially if they are experiencing severe staff shortages. Essex County Council are working with schools on a daily basis to make sure we have plans in place to offer places at neighbouring schools to support vulnerable children and children of critical workers. If your school is closed, your school should work with you to find an alternative placement. If this doesn’t happen then please contact the Assistant Director of Education in your local area (quadrant), who will seek to redirect you to a local school in your area that your child, or children, can attend.


My child does not access to digital devices and cannot access the online learning set by the school, what help can I get?

Laptops and tablets will be provided for disadvantaged families, children and young people who do not currently have access to them through another source, such as their school. Digital devices can be requested for:

  • care leavers
  • children and young people aged 0 to 19 with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 pupils

The full government guidance on providing technology support can be found here