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(UK) BBC: Special needs students left 'utterly abandoned' during shutdown

July 1, 2020, BBC News: 'Utter abandonment' of special needs families during lockdown https://www.bbc.com/news/education-53248609 Families of children with special educational needs have felt "utterly abandoned" during school closures, an MPs' committee has been told. Witnesses told the education committee those with extra educational, physical or emotional needs had seen support "fall off a cliff" amid lockdown. Risk assessments linked to Covid-19 had been used by some schools to prevent SEND pupils attending, it heard. There was also concern national catch-up plans do not mention SEND children. Witnesses from the special educational needs and disability (SEND) world painted a bleak and disturbing picture of life for pupils with additional needs…. Children with special needs plans were part of the group of children who were invited to continue schooling. But Ms Fiddy said, in some cases, the risk assessment process tied to the coronavirus outbreak was being used as an excuse to offer no services and keep pupils out of school. She gave the example of a parent of a Reception child with SEND being told they could not attend because they would need to be reminded to wash their hands…. Amanda Batten, chair of the Disabled Children's Partnership, said families feel "very much forgotten" and that most families had seen their support reduced if not withdrawn. She said overall the picture was one of exhaustion and stress among the families she had heard from, with children's physical and mental health deteriorating.…. Philippa Stobbs, policy vice-chair at the Special Educational Consortium, said many families and young people had been hit hard by the waiving of the legal duty on schools to provide support for SEND pupils…. 'Pre-existing inequalities exacerbated' The problem was that many families had received no information about what might replace their regular support. "The impact of that is absolutely devastating," she said. "So the pre-existing inequalities have been exacerbated because so little has been done in some places for children who already experience difficulties in their education."… "The difficulty for a family left to home educate their child with a lack of any provision from a school or local authority is almost unimaginable, and the impact of that is going to be deep and long-lasting." She also highlighted the structural issues within the SEND system which has from many years been be-set with delays and difficulties. Chair of the committee, Robert Halfon, said: "This is very, very depressing what you're telling us this morning, I have to say….