School Re-opening (June)

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The government guidance page here

NOTE: I would like to apologise for the lack of certainty regarding the current legal situation. However, Government guidance has changed several times since the initial announcement on May 10th and on at least two occasions on the 15th May alone. We expect it to change again over the coming weeks. Therefore we recommend that you take note of the following:

    1. Government guidance is not necessarily the same as the law. The government may offer guidance on what they believe parents should do in accordance with government policy, but this does not always correspond with what the law says you must do. In particular statements made by ministers and other politicians may be actually contrary to law. You must therefore take care when making decissions to ensure they are legally correct.
    2. Different families facing different circumstances will have different legal issues to confront. So, just because your neighbours are free to take a particular set of decissions, does not mean you will be.
    3. Because guidance is changing so regularly, as are which parts of the Coronavirus act are in operation at any one time, please ensure you are making decissions on the latest and best information applicable to your circumstances.
    4. Government guidance is being challenged by unions and other groups, such as IPSEA. It's important therefore that you take into account that, what is legally required one day, may not be the next.
    5. While we are endeavouring to keep this page legally correct and up to date, you must appreciate the difficulty in analysing such a complex fast moving situation which can become out of date at any time. Therefore, it is advisable that you take legal advice when taking decissions which could have legal implications.

1 Government announcement

Boris Johnson made an announcement on Sunday, May 10th, 2020 regarding the re-opening of schools in June following the half term. His announcement only applies to England.

The measures outlined in this announcement have been modified on several occasions since then.

2 Some LAs are not opening schools.

It should be noted that some local authorities have taken the decision not to open schools in their area. However, Academy schools within those areas may open despite this since they are not under the control of their local authority.

It is important, therefore, what when making your decision whether or not to send your child to school, that you contact your school to see exactly what is happening.

3 Yr 1 children

It appears that they want children in yr 1 to attend. from Monday 1st June.

4 Yr 6 Children

It's a little uncertain, but there seems to be an expectation that there will be contact between pupils and children for this group. Which probably means some kind of meet up in preparation for moving to senior school. It's unclear what form this might take or over what timescale

5 Yr's 10 and 12

These years are preparing for exams (GCSE's and A levels.

the guidance says that these children will have 'some' face to face support from teachers, however, it appears that most of their education will take place 'remotely'.

If you fall into this category you can expect contact from your school. Otherwise you may want to contact them yourself.

6 Children NOT in yrs 1, 6, 10, 12

Children with EHCP's and Vulnerable children of all year groups are expected to attend unless shielding or risk assessments say otherwise. Even those who have not been attending previously.

It appears that there are no plans to expect children generally to attend school in June. Although they may revise that later in the month.

7 Children with EHCPs

ALL with EHCP who fit the criteria for Risk Assessment should have a NEW RA before they invite the child to return to school.

Children with EHCP's, regardless of year group, are expected to attend unless shielding or risk assessments say otherwise. Even those who have not been attending previously.

8 Vulnerable Children

Under pressure from the Children's Commissioner, the government want ALL vulnerable children to attend from Monday 1st of June, unless they have a risk assessment which states otherwise or if they are shielding.

In which case it is wise to contact the school giving reasons.

I suggest you also look at the IPSEA web site paragraph 7 onwards. (IPSEA are also updating their web site. We understand an update will occur by Wednesday 20th May.)

The government have said that any child identified as vulnerable who does not attend school will be reported to Child Protection teams.

This does not necessarily mean you will be forced to return your child to school, you may for example have a reason not to do so (shielding a family member) but there is a presumption that you will.

The guidance is confusing. In one section they clearly state that parents will not be fined, while in another they say that they expect all vulnerable children to attend.

While the wording appears to suggest they will not fine any parents, they clearly intend to place pressure on parents of vulnerable children to return. We cannot know at this time if they intend to prosecute parents of vulnerable children who decide not to return their children. It is more likely that they will rely upon the persuasive powers of the social workers.

9 What if my child is shielding

There is no expectation that a child shielding either themselves or another member of the family living with them should attend. However, if they fall into one or other category of child now expected to return, the parents should notify the school about the circumstances.

It may be prudent (if at all possible) to have paperwork to hand as evidence of shielding in case this is challenged.

10 What if my child has 'symptoms'?

The Government guidance on this has remained consistent. You should NOT send your child to school if your child is showing symptoms of the virus. But you should notify the school that this is the case.

11 s437-444 and Prosecutions for truancy

For Clarity

The Covid 19 Act disapplies sections 437-444 of the Education Act 1996 while the school at which your child is registered is closed. s444 is pivotal to any prosecution for truancy. So while your child is not expected to attend, you may not be prosecuted.

In addition it appears that there is no expectation that parents will be prosecuted.

12 Special circumstances.

Currently the guidance is clear, those families facing 'special circumstances' are NOT expected to send their children to school. However should this advice change. then the following should apply anyway.

Circumstances such as:

  • if the child has a condition which requires social isolation
  • if the child has a condition which requires shielding

Should exempt families from being forced to attend school. Using current legislation, s175 of the Education act 2002 obligates the local authority to act in all circumstances in the best interests of the child's welfare. Clearly it cannot be in the best interests of the child's welfare to put his/her life at risk by attending schools.

Strictly speaking academy schools are not covered by s175 obligations. However, the prosecuting authority would remain to be the LA. So even if your child attends an academy, the local authority should still not prosecute.

It is also arguable that where a child lives with others (close relatives etc) who require social isolation or shielding. This might include parents or siblings undergoing medical treatment or anyone over 70 in the household, it may also not in their best interests for them to be in school and put these relatives at risk.

However this is a slightly less clear circumstance. It would however be profoundly callous were an LA to insist under these circumstances and I feel sure that press interest in such a prosecution would be intense, and sympathetic to the parents, under the circumstances.

13 School Health and Safety Arrangements

From letters being sent to some parents, it appears that a small minority of schools will not be following the guidance to schools on issues like Social distancing.

Therefore, prior to opening, schools should have undertaken risk assessments and should have a report on exactly what arrangements are being made. If you would like to know the contents, you should be able to ask for this . It should be signed by a senior member of staff.

If your school is a Local Authority run school and they are resisting sending out this policy document, you could use the Freedom of Information Act to force the school to hand over such a document. If it is an Academy, it is classed as a private institution and the FOI Act does not apply.

14 what about EHCPs?

s43 CAFA timescales for EHC needs assessments have a relaxed deadline duty to the 25th September

S42 CAFA has been modified to being a duty to provide for sections F & G of the EHCP.

15 Notifying the school

We have prepared an example letter (word docx) you may wish to use if you are intending not to send your child to school.

If you use this letter and have any issues or negative reactions please let us know so we can monitor it's effectiveness and improve upon it.

Deregistration process

Some parents have expressed an interest in deregistration.

I have therefore included this link to where parents can find advice on how deregistration is works.

We recommend advice is taken prior to starting. In particular we suggest parents seriously considering this option should join both a local and national dedicated Elective, Home Education support forum. It is these forums that provide ongoing support to EHE parents.

You only need to formally deregister a child of compulsory School Age (CSA) that is from the start of the term following their 5th birthday to the last friday of June following their 16th birthday. If your child is younger than this, a simple letter notifying the school or nursery is sufficient.

Assuming you live in England or Wales, your child does NOT attend a special needs school and does not have an ESO or SAO in force, the deregistration process is a relatively simple process which can be performed on the day you intend to withdraw your child.

It is not necessary to give the school prior warning or have any contact with the local authority and you do not need permission, home education is a right in law.

Therefore, there is no reason to act before you feel absolutely need to. You can leave it until September for example.

Guidance on how to deregister your child can be found here, please read carefully before acting.

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