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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 now compared to before the lockdown. However, if your child, for whatever reason, needs extra or different help to benefit from their learning – they still have a right to get that support.

Equality laws have not changed either, and local authorities, schools and nurseries 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 support for learning 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 update this section as we receive more questions.

Local authorities continue to have a duty to identify which pupils in their schools and nurseries may need extra help with their learning, and to 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 children’s rights to support for learning.

Schools and nurseries are expected to focus on wellbeing and recovery during the beginning stage of schools reopening. Teachers will watch out for any signs of distress or difficulty for pupils and work to support them in school. 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 lockdown included working closely for prolonged periods of time with support staff, this may need to change 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 back at school or nursery, 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 school transport they need to wear a face covering while using the transport (unless they are exempt, for example due to a health condition). The rules are the same for school transport as they are for public transport, with all adults and children aged 5 and over needing to wear face coverings.

There are however 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 will not be able to 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.

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 pupil’s needs, and under normal circumstances they would often visit the school to observe pupils in their classroom environment.

For nurseries, while professionals should avoid visiting where possible, the guidance states if they need to visit the nursery to provide specialist support they may be able to do so. This means that professionals like speech and language therapists may be able to continue providing your child and other children with specialised help.

For schools, the guidance states that local authorities and schools need to limit the number of adults visiting and moving between schools. This means there could be delays before professionals like educational psychologists and speech and language therapists will be able to regularly visit schools in person again. Instead, schools should try and arrange input from these professionals to happen in a different and lower-risk way, for example using technology or using outdoor spaces.

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 input from visiting professionals. The school 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. You can ask how the school will continue to work together with other professionals. Even if professionals cannot currently visit the school in person, they are still there to advise and support the school to get your child the help they need with their learning.

Children and young people will have reacted differently to lockdown and some will have found learning at home easier than others. Teachers are aware that children will have learned at different speeds during this time and should work with individual children and young people and their parents and carers to help them get back on track.

It is important for teachers and parents and carers to communicate with each other so that teachers understand what difficulties their pupils have faced during lockdown. For more information about how to do this, see our coronavirus webpage on Working together with your child’s school or nursery during coronavirus.

Some children and young people may have found the lockdown and learning from home particularly difficult, and this may have increased their need for support now that they have returned to school or nursery. In some cases, they may not have needed additional support for learning before the lockdown but will need it now they are back to school.

When you were helping your child with their learning at home, you may also have noticed difficulties you were not aware of before. Your child’s needs may also have changed due to coronavirus, for example if they have experienced bereavement or if family circumstances have changed.

In all these situations, it is important that you tell the school as soon as possible about any additional needs your child has developed, or you have become aware of, during lockdown. This way, the school can put in place the support they need.

If you are not happy with 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 early in the new term.

If your child is disabled and their support has been affected by the new 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 still not happy 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.

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