July 1, 2020, The Guardian: English schools ‘using coronavirus as excuse’ not to teach special needs pupils https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jul/01/english-schools-using-coronavirus-as-excuse-not-to-teach-special-needs-pupils Risk assessments being used to keep children at home for ‘spurious reasons’, MPs hear Schools in England are using Covid-19 risk assessments as a “blanket excuse” to prevent pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) from attending classes, MPs have been told. Campaigners told the cross-party education committee that schools were using “spurious reasons” to avoid having pupils with Send in education settings. Many children isolated at home have had little or no support and their families have been left feeling “utterly abandoned”, MPs heard….. “The impact of that is absolutely devastating,” said Stobbs. “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 in terms of physical and mental wellbeing is going to be deep and, I fear, lasting.” Pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) were among those offered school places during lockdown, alongside children of key workers and vulnerable students. While some families have chosen to keep children at home, the committee was told others have been unable to access places. Ali Fiddy, the chief executive of the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice, told MPs: “What we’re certainly seeing is the risk assessment process being used as a blanket excuse for not meeting the needs of children and young people and not having them in education settings – with either no reasons being given, or spurious reasons around, for example, ‘Well, your child isn’t capable of social distancing’, or ‘Your child won’t wash their hands without prompting’.” The committee was told that children and young people with Send had lost their additional support as a result of the government’s decision to relax the legal duty on local authorities – overstretched as a result of the Covid-19 crisis – to deliver provision outlined in EHCPs…. Beyond the immediate crisis, witnesses warned of a rise in disability discrimination as schools fully reopen in September, with some children regarded as too high-risk and no focused catch-up provision for those with Send. They also raised concerns about a potential jump in exclusions among children with Send who will have been adversely affected by lockdown, particularly if the government enforces a “zero-tolerance” approach to behaviour once schools fully return….