Education Law and Corvid-19 FAQ's

This page aims to answer key questions about the changes to education, and the law relating to it, as a result of the Corvid 19 pandemic.

Are schools closed?

The Government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible to lower the risk of the virus spreading further.  All schools have been ordered to close, other some with a skeleton staff to provide education for the children of key workers, and ‘vulnerable children’

How long will the schools remain closed to most children?

It is not yet known, it will depend on when the government decides that it is safe for schools to start opening up again.

Which children can still go to school?

Schools, and all childcare providers, are being asked to stay open for a limited number of children: those who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response who cannot safely be cared for at home.

Who is a vulnerable child?

Vulnerable children include those who are supported by social care and those with safeguarding and welfare needs. This includes children with child in need plans, on child protection plans, children being looked after by social services, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Children with an EHC plan should be risk-assessed by their school or college in consultation with the local authority (LA) and parents, to decide whether they still need to be offered a school or college place in order to meet their needs, or whether they can safely have their needs met at home. This could include, if necessary, carers, therapists or clinicians visiting the home to provide any essential services. Many children and young people with EHC plans can safely remain at home, while the restrictions continue.

What about children eligible for free school meals?

Under normal circumstances, schools are not expected to provide free school meals to eligible children who are not attending due to illness or if the school is closed. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak schools are expected to continue to provide support to these children with meals or food parcels through their current food provider.   Where this is not possible, the Department for Education (DfE) has developed a centrally funded national voucher scheme to support schools with this process. 

What is happening about examinations?

SATs assessments have been cancelled.  Students studying for GCSEs or A levels will be given a grade based upon their teacher’s assessment, which will consider their coursework, mock exams and previous assessments.   The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation has issued guidance on carrying out assessments.  They have also started a consultation about the procedures.

Will there be a right of appeal against grades?

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation will provide details of the right of appeal against the assessments.

Will I be prosecuted for not sending my child to school if their school remains open?

No. The Coronavirus Act disapplies the penalty for parents failing to send their children to school. 

Does the Local Authority have to deliver the provision in section F of my child’s EHC plan?

Previously, the local authority had a legal obligation to deliver the provision in section F of a child’s EHC plan. The Coronavirus Act allowed the Secretary of State to make an order requiring Local Authorities to only use their best endeavours to deliver the provision.  There is an order in place until 25th September 2020.

Are there any other allowances under the Act for special educational needs?

The Act allows the Secretary of State to make an order which temporarily suspends the duty on schools to admit a pupil when their EHC plan names that school (section 43 of Children and Families Act 2014).

The Act also enables the Secretary of State to make an order allowing Local Authorities to delay Annual Reviews where appropriate and proportionate.    Urgent reviews should still be arranged.

Is there anything parents can do to obtain the provision in their child’s EHC plan?

Parents can argue that assessments, the delivery of provision and reviews can take place remotely. Alternatively, they can seek a personal budget / direct payment to pay for the provision and arrange it themselves.

My child is being assessed, do the timescales still apply?

The timeframes remain the same although the interim arrangements allow a longer period of time. Delays are inevitable if an assessment is not practical due to staff absences and difficulties in carrying out assessments due to the current restrictions.  However, assessments and meetings can take place remotely so any policy by an authority not to carry out assessments at all may be unlawful.

Are the Tribunals still hearing appeals?

Yes, the First-Tier Tribunal, Special Educational Needs and Disability has been holding hearings on the papers alone or by telephone/video to enable cases to be heard and to prevent a future backlog in cases.

Phil Storey