HPCI network update – lockdown and school closures 8th Jan 2021

Here we are in a New Year in a situation we hoped wouldn’t happen with a lockdown and school/college closures.  As before we will continue to bring you updates on the situation and all of these emails continue to be published on our website.

What is different this time around?

In education – secondary schools now have access to Covid lateral flow testing for secondary stage pupils and have been attending webinars and online training courses this week.  We think it is fair to say that this has turned out to be more involved than first thought with those who are training as testers in settings being asked to complete 6 online training sessions each with a test that they need to pass with 100% before they can qualify.  Settings need a team of 7 or more testers and separate designated areas with certain conditions for the testing to take place.  It is important to note that testing is not mandatory for staff or pupils and pupils should not be denied access to a school place if they are unable or unwilling to comply with the test.  We want to hear directly from you if your child with SEND is refused a school place for that reason.

Today DfE have updated the Actions for Schools guidance which makes clear that all vulnerable children should be attending if parents want them to. The key bits around attendance are on pages 24-27.


Things to be aware of: –
Offer of school places – the government has expanded the critical workers list from the key worker list in previous lockdowns covering more job roles. Be aware that you may be asked to produce evidence such as an id badge or pay slip to prove that you are a critical worker. There has also been an expansion of those children and young people who are considered vulnerable and so should be offered a school place.  Now this will be welcome news to many SEND families whose children accessed very little face to face education last time.  They have also included children who do not have access to a laptop or suitable place to study.

HOWEVER regrettably in Hertfordshire this is against a background of high levels of positive virus cases and therefore self-isolation in the community which is reducing staffing levels in schools.  This problem is also increased by some teachers following union advice and declining to come into schools on the grounds that their work environment as an employee is not safe.  This has meant that some settings are not yet able to offer a school place to all the families who request one because they do not have adequate staffing levels.
The situation is changing all the time and we expect things will settle in the coming week or so.

WE DO want to hear about your families experience positive or not.  You can email us via contact@hertsparentcarers.org.uk or coordinator@hertsparentcarers.org.uk or message us via our Facebook page or direct message on Twitter or text/WhatsApp to the HPCI phone 07840 360245.
What will we do with what you tell us?  As always we use it to feed back to HCC what is working and what is not and any views you have on what you need to know more about will be passed on.  An HPCI rep attends a weekly SEND Covid meeting with HCC.

Therapy Services – we have just received this update from the therapy service provider HCT
Following announcement of a further national lockdown there is currently no change to the Children and Young People’s Therapy Service offer. We are continuing to comply with social distancing measures when delivering appointments using a virtual first approach. We encourage you to attend all of your planned appointments.

BELOW is a copy of the text currently on the SEND Local Offer coronavirus updates page as of 7th January. We recommend that you check this page regularly  SEND Coronavirus updates

  • School closures: what we are doing next and service updates
  • 6 January 2021
  • Following the announcement regarding school closures we have been working closely with our school leaders and the Department for Education to look at the new guidance and what it means for our schools. Despite the challenges of staffing, schools are doing everything they can to provide the education that all pupils deserve, whether this is remotely or within school. We are closely supporting education settings where possible.
  • We are working with Herts Parent Carer Involvement, and our colleagues across education, health and social care to coproduce the right support for our children and young people with SEND and their families. We will have more to tell you about this support in future updates.
  • If there is any support or guidance that you feel would be helpful to you at this time, we are keen to hear from you. We can’t guarantee that we can put it all in place but we will do whatever we can. Please share any ideas you have with localoffer@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Here is a rundown of how our services are running at the moment:

  • Therapies and Community Paediatrics:  Currently all services are continuing as pre-Christmas break, and no staff have been redeployed to support the vaccination or COVID surge programmes.
  • The Speech and Language, Occupational and Physiotherapy teams continue to provide face to face support in Special Schools with other appointments virtual either at home or at school.
  • There have been some staffing difficulties this week whilst schools establish the critical worker provision, but this should be resolved by next week.
  • Short Breaks Local Offer: Physical SBLO sessions are running with reduced capacity due to social distancing measure. Virtual SBLO sessions are available with some providers.  View the Short Breaks physical and virtual offers 
  • Overnight Short Breaks: All 3 Overnight Short Breaks settings are open with reduced capacity due to social distancing measures.
  • Direct payments: view our guidance on direct payments and coronavirus
  • Homecare: In some cases you may be visited by a different carer due to staff needing to self-isolate. Your Homecare agency will let you know if this happens.

As always – keep safe, follow the guidance and ask for help if you need it.