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Coronavirus and additional support for learning

How will my child’s additional support for learning be affected?

While Scotland continues to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, there may be some changes to what your child’s additional support for learning will look like. However, if your child, for whatever reason, needs extra or different help to benefit from their learning – their school or nursery still need to offer them support based on their individual needs.

Equality laws have not changed, and local authorities, schools and nurseries also still need to make sure they are treating children and young people fairly and taking an inclusive approach. There is more information in our factsheet on ‘Inclusion, equality and wellbeing

This section contains answers to some of the questions that you may have about changes to support for learning when your child is attending school or nursery during the coronavirus pandemic. If you have a question that we have not answered, please get in touch with our helpline. We will continue to keep this section updated.

Your child’s school or nursery should identify which pupils in their schools and nurseries may need extra help with their learning. They should then provide them with the support they need to do the best they can in their education. Our factsheet, Additional support for learning: key facts, explains their duties and your child’s rights to support for learning.

Schools and nurseries should focus on their pupils’ wellbeing and the impact coronavirus has had on their lives and learning. Teachers will watch out for any signs of distress or difficulty for pupils and work to support them. They should also take account of any information you can provide about your child’s needs – whether these are social, psychological, health or educational needs.

If your child’s support before coronavirus included working closely for prolonged periods of time with support staff, this may have changed for a while. The school should look at whether they can meet your child’s support needs in a different way that helps reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading. However, if your child needs this support to benefit from their learning, and it can’t be provided in a different way, then the school should still provide it. There may need to be some adaptions, like your child and the support staff member being asked to wear face coverings.

There is a strong emphasis on communication between schools and parents as pupils adjust to being in school or nursery during the coronavirus, as they will need joined-up support from both school and home.

All schools and local authorities must also take steps to make sure they are not putting disabled pupils at a disadvantage. If they anticipate that a disabled pupil will be put at a disadvantage compared to other pupils their age, they should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the way they plan and deliver education and support to avoid this happening. Our factsheet on Disabled pupils and the law explains more about schools’ and local authorities’ duties.

If your child uses dedicated school transport to get to and from school, the same rules apply as when they are in school. This means primary school pupils do not need to wear a face covering, but high school pupils need to.

Where public transport (including a taxi) is used to get to or from school, the normal coronavirus rules for using public transport apply. Currently this means children aged 5 and over should wear a face covering unless they are exempt.

There are exceptions in the guidance on the use of face coverings on transport to take account of disabled people and those with certain health conditions. If you think your child’s additional support needs mean they cannot wear a face covering when getting to and from school, speak to their school about what adjustments can be considered to meet their individual needs.

Strict 2 meter distancing is no longer required on transport to and from school, however pupils are still encouraged to keep distance between themselves and others where possible. The risks are being reduced in other ways, like the use of hand sanitiser, wearing face masks and ventilation.

Some pupils with additional support needs get dedicated transport to and from school, based on their specific needs. As always, the local authority and school need to continue to take account of your child’s individual needs and consider what steps they can take to reduce the risks of coronavirus. For example, they may consider re-arranging transport so pupils in the same class grouping, or ‘bubble’, travel together.

For children with additional support needs, it can often be important for the school or nursery to work together with other professionals to make sure your child gets the support they need. For example, educational psychologists are often involved in identifying and assessing pupils’ needs by visiting schools or nurseries and observing children in their learning environments.

Generally, schools and nurseries should try to limit the number of adults visiting and moving between different groups of children and young people. However, professionals can still visit schools and nurseries if they are providing essential services for the delivery of your child’s care or educational support plan. For example, support teachers, psychologists, nurses, therapists, social workers, and youth workers can all still work with your child if their input is necessary.

Schools and nurseries should have a risk assessment in place that looks at how they can try and reduce some of the risks of working together with other professionals. Schools or nurseries may arrange input from these professionals in a different and lower-risk way, for example using technology or outdoor spaces more.

If your child is not able to get input from other professionals at the moment this may be worrying for you, especially if you are awaiting an assessment of your child’s needs or if your child’s normal support involves visiting professionals. The school or nursery will be aware of the challenges this will present for your child, and they should review what your child’s support will look like under the current coronavirus guidance.

If you are worried about your child’s support, speak to their school or nursery. You can ask how they will continue to work together with other professionals. Even if professionals have had to change how they are involved in your child’s support during coronavirus, they are still there to advise and support the school or nursery to get your child the help they need with their learning.

Some children and young people have found the last year particularly difficult. When you have helped your child with their learning at home during lockdown, you may have noticed difficulties you were not aware of before. Some children will have experienced bereavement or difficult family circumstances, for example if their parent lost their job because of coronavirus. Others may have struggled with changes to school life like longer lessons or different rules about break and lunchtimes.

Whatever the reason, if you feel your child needs more or different support with their learning, it is important that you speak to the school about this. This way, the school can put in place the support your child needs.

If you are worried about the support that is currently in place for your child, you should discuss your concerns with your child’s teachers.

It may be best to put your concerns in writing to the school or nursery. This will give you the chance to think through what your main worries or questions are and will give staff the chance to give a considered reply. You could also ask for a phone or video meeting to talk things through.

If your child is disabled and their support has been affected by the rules or measures the school has put in place due to coronavirus, it is important that the school makes sure this does not put them at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled pupils. If you have any concerns that your child may be being discriminated against, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service for advice.

If you are worried after this, our factsheet on Avoiding and solving problems explains what other things you can do. Because of coronavirus, there might be delays to some of the more formal options for resolving disagreements, so it might be most helpful to focus on working together with the school or nursery if you can.

Some children with additional support needs may have a split placement, where they attend different settings on different days – for example, spending three days a week in their local mainstream school, and two days a week in a special school, unit or base where they can receive more specialised support.

It is important to remember that your child still has a right to receive an education and to get the support they need to benefit from their learning. So, if a split placement is the only way for them to receive this, the guidance does allow for split placements if they are necessary.

Local authorities and schools may look to do a risk assessment for pupils who normally have a split placement, to help them decide if there are any adaptions or other measures that would allow them to continue to offer your child the support they need while also reducing the risks of coronavirus spreading.

For example, it may be possible to temporarily offer your child extra support in one setting to help them stay in one consistent group and school. Or if your child usually attends a special school two separate half days a week, they may condense these times to one full day so your child is not moving between different settings and groups of people within a single day.

If you are worried about the decision that has been made about your child’s school placement, you should speak to their schools about this. You can also contact our helpline for further advice.

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