Schools and education | COVID-19 (Coronavirus) | Sutton Council
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) : latest information and advice

What is the current situation with the COVID -19 (Coronavirus) and where to find more information.

Information from the London Borough of Sutton

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Schools and education

Admissions to schools for critical workers and vulnerable pupils

All schools/education settings will be closed from Friday 20 March until further notice.  A reduced provision offer will be available for a limited number of children – this means children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response (critical worker) and cannot be safely cared for at home. 

This applies to:

  • registered childcare providers (including nurseries and childminders)
  • local authority-maintained schools and academies (both mainstream and special)
  • all alternative provision including pupil referral units
  • non-maintained special schools
  • independent special schools
  • general further education (FE) colleges
  • special post-16 institutions
  • other post-16 providers

The above settings will offer a limited offer to critical workers and where possible, the Government have encouraged settings to look after critical workers’ children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays. 

Thank you very much for your support in these challenging times. We are working closely with schools/education settings, to ensure we are protecting those services which are most important to our local community during these unprecedented circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

This document will be updated on a regular basis. Latest Update: 20 March

Eligibility 

Can I send my child to school/their education setting during the period of temporary closures?

If children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading.

Only children who are vulnerable and children whose parents are critical to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response (critical worker) and cannot be safely cared for at home will be offered a place during the period of temporary closures. 

A definition of a critical worker is set out in government guidance, published on Friday 20 March.

Whether you are a critical worker or not, only families with an offer of a place should attend their school/education settings. Sutton Council and schools/education settings ask that parents/pupils do not attend a setting before a place has been offered and confirmed by your school/education setting. 

The definition of a vulnerable pupil is:

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

If you believe you may qualify for consideration of a place in a reduced provision then you should get in touch with your school/educational setting. Schools/educational settings will not always be able to guarantee an offer of a place; if any offer of a place is made, it will only be based on what staff numbers can accommodate on grounds of health and safety for all.

More information for parents and carers on closure of educational settings.

All of the Public Health Guidance still applies so please note, if you are offered a place please DO NOT send children to school/education settings if they have any symptoms of the virus - continue to follow Public Health England advice as normal.

I work in a profession that is on the list published by the Government as being key workers - can I send my child to school/their normal educational setting?

If your work is critical to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed in the guidance, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision. This does not mean children of all workers in these categories can or will continue to send their children to school. Many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home or they might work in one of the listed professions but not be considered critical to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) response.

I am a critical worker but my partner isn’t - should I send my children to school/education settings?

If it is at all possible, children should be at home. Children with at least one parent or carer who is identified as a critical worker by the government can send their children to school. While we understand families may want to take up this offer to enable the other partner to work, we would ask parents to consider if this is absolutely necessary and is made on the grounds that parents would not be able to safely look after their children from home without this support. 

Do I need to provide evidence that I am a critical worker?

You may be asked to provide evidence that your employer has confirmed that you are a critical worker but schools may not always need to seek evidence. This will be managed by individual schools.

If I work part time do I need to send the child in each day?

No, but it’s important to be in communication with the setting so they are aware who to expect each day. We do acknowledge that working patterns may change over the coming weeks, and it is best to keep in communication with the setting about changing needs and their capacity to accommodate this.

I am a critical worker but my school/education setting doesn’t agree – can you tell me if I qualify and then tell the school?

Schools will ultimately be responsible with respect to the interpretation of a critical worker based on the guidance issued by the Government. Parents should liaise with their employers and employers can provide evidence to schools that they should be considered a critical worker, however it is the school that will make the decision on which children they can accept.

School/education settings’ capacity and alternative provision

I qualify as a critical worker but my school/education setting doesn’t have capacity for all eligible children – can I send my child to an alternative school/setting?

In this situation, we would ask schools/education settings to work with us to identify an alternative placement for the pupil. Schools/education settings are best placed to take the lead on this because they know the pupils, their individual needs and they would be best placed to liaise with other schools/settings to plan those placements. Where a setting is unable to find a suitable placement then they should refer to us, and we would then seek to identify a solution.

If your child has an EHCP, please contact your EHCP coordinator directly.

If your child does not have an EHCP, please call 020 8323 0457 or email suttonadmissions@cognus.org.uk

View the letter to parents/carers from Cognus regarding EHCNAs, EHCPs, and travel assistance on the Sutton Local Offer.

What if the Council cannot find an alternative?

We will do everything we can to place pupils in an educational setting but it may be that we are unable to find an alternative straight away. We will keep a record of all pupils and families and stay in touch with families to notify them when a place becomes available.  

Can I go to a school/education setting that is nearer/more convenient?

In principle the answer is ‘no’ unless it is demonstrable that you are unable to attend your normal school/education setting because of capacity issues. You would need to talk to your school/education setting in the first instance about alternative arrangements and, if a solution is unable to be found, contact the Council.

If your child has an EHCP, please contact your EHCP coordinator directly.

If your child does not have an EHCP, please call 020 8323 0457 or email suttonadmissions@cognus.org.uk

Are schools doing consistent hours and breakfast/after school clubs?

The ambition is that schools open during normal hours including breakfast and after school clubs. However, schools/educational settings will have discretion about what they are able to provide. You need to talk to individual schools about this (these provisions are sometimes run by third parties and there may be capacity issues for this provision as well). 

Can I just turn up at a preferred school/education setting?

No. You should only be attending your own school/education setting where a place has been agreed OR unless told that there is another setting you can use. You will not have a place at any school/education setting unless they confirm to you that you do, and this may change as the capacity of the school changes.

Can an alternative school/education setting refuse if they have space?

Yes they can. Each school/education setting will be assessing their capacity on an ongoing basis and this will change daily.

Will schools/education settings ‘select’ pupils that they make provision for?

No, over and above the criteria that the Government have set out (pupils of critical workers and vulnerable pupils). Schools/Education settings will not be “selecting” pupils by ability, behaviour or any other criteria but will have capacity issues and so may need to decide how they prioritise the places available.

No local schools/education settings have space – can you force them to take additional pupils?

No, schools/education settings will be assessing their capacity to accept children and ensure safe provision on an ongoing basis. 

Is there a list of schools/education settings with space and how often is it updated?

We are going to gather information from schools/education settings and we will try and communicate this to parents as accurately as possible where we are asked. However, spaces in schools/education settings will change depending on the situation at any one time. Schools/education settings will be the arbiters of whether they have space or not. 

If I prefer the alternative school/education setting, can I stay/transfer there permanently?

It is important that you remember that placement at this time will be very different from the

normal experience. However, we understand that some pupils may make friends in alternative settings or parents might wish to attend other school/education settings in the longer term. There is a normal process for this but we would not encourage anyone to be considering this until the outbreak has been contained and until schools/education settings fully reopen as normal.

How can I find out if my school/education setting is open or closed or what the latest position is?

You should contact the school/education setting directly if you have any questions about the provision that is available at the school. We are also asking schools to update the ‘opencheck’ system so that parents can see what the latest position is for each school in the Borough. 

Children classified as ‘vulnerable’

Do vulnerable children have to continue to go to school?

There is an expectation that vulnerable children who have a social worker will attend school, as long as it is safe for them to do so. In circumstances where a parent does not want to bring their child to school, and their child is considered vulnerable, the social worker and school will explore the reasons for this, directly with the parent, and help to resolve any concerns or difficulties wherever possible.

Where parents are concerned about the risk of the child contracting the virus, the school or social worker will talk through these anxieties with the parent following the advice set out by Public Health England.

Do all children and young people with an EHC plan need to continue at school?

Schools, colleges, other training providers and local authorities will need to consider the needs of all children and young people with an EHC plan, alongside the views of their parents, and make a risk assessment for each child or young person. They will need to consider a number of different risks to each individual, including:

the potential health risks to the individual from COVID-19, bearing in mind any underlying health conditions. This must be on an individual basis with advice from an appropriate health professional where required the risk to the individual if some or all elements of their EHC plan cannot be delivered at all, and the risk if they cannot be delivered in the normal manner or in the usual setting the ability of the individual’s parents or home to ensure their health and care needs can be met safely the potential impact to the individual’s wellbeing of changes to routine or the way in which provision is delivered

We expect most children will fall into the following categories:

  1. children and young people who would be at significant risk if their education, health and care provision and placement did not continue, namely those who could not safely be supported at home. This may include those with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and those receiving significant levels of personal care support. Local authorities will need to work with the individual’s educational setting – especially residential special schools and colleges – as well as local health partners, to ensure they are able to remain open wherever possible. This may mean deploying staff from other schools, to keep staffing ratios safe
  2. children and young people whose needs can be met at home, namely those who are not receiving personal care from their educational setting, or whose limited need for personal care can be met in their family home. As part of the government’s emergency powers, we will modify the statutory duties on local authorities to maintain the precise provision in EHC plans and will expect educational settings and local authorities to use their reasonable endeavours to support these children and their families

Where a local authority is unable to put in place stated provision, they will need to use their reasonable endeavours to do this, but won’t be penalised for failing to meet the existing duty in the 2014 Act.

My child has an Education, Health and Care Plan and my school / education setting is shut/or insufficient staff to provide additional support, and cannot attend an alternative provision – will Sutton Council provide alternative provision?

Special schools and Opportunity Bases are under pressure and are unlikely to be able to open to maximum capacity for all pupils with EHC plans. You should liaise with your individual schools/education settings about whether it is possible to find alternative arrangements. 

However, generally speaking we would not recommend placing pupils with EHCPs in alternative schools/settings because of the variety of different health and care needs that they have. If a setting is absolutely clear that they cannot make the provision available safely and parents are absolutely clear that they cannot safely care for their children in any other way, they should contact their EHCP coordinator directly and we will seek to find alternative arrangements, where possible.  

Will my child still have all of the provision set out in his/her Education, Health and Care Plan?

Sutton Council and its partners will do everything possible to meet the current contents of all EHCPs. We will do our best to minimise any disruption. Please speak to your school and/or call Cognus if you are worried or concerned.

The Government introduced new legislation (19 March) in response to the outbreak. As a result, we will use reasonable endeavours to ensure that provision continues to be available to meet education, health and care needs and prioritise efforts to support those with the most complex needs. We may need to redeploy staff (whether teachers, support staff or other critical workers) to ensure specialist schools and colleges have sufficient workforce to operate safely, and may need to do this across the usual boundaries of maintained, academy, college or other status to ensure the right staff are in the right settings.

Parents who consent to changes to, or reductions in, their child’s provision during this outbreak will not be considered to have agreed a permanent change to what their child needs in their EHC plan. We are also considering amending SEND regulations to change timescales relating to EHC plan processes.

My child usually receives SEN transport to school – will this continue?

If your child will still be attending their school/education setting, then we will continue to provide assistance. However, there may be a different provider or crew delivering this assistance. We are contacting schools and families regarding these arrangements.Please contact SEN.Transport@cognus.org.uk if you have any questions.

My child has been submitted for an Education Health and Care Needs Assessment (EHCNA) can I get a place at my school/education setting?

No. Unless the parent meets the critical worker criteria then there is no requirement on schools/education settings to make a place available for those that do not currently have an EHC plan but may be in the assessment process.

Are children in foster care eligible? How will a foster carer know that they are eligible?

Yes, all children who are looked after by the local authority are eligible. For all looked after children, local authorities will be well placed to identify them and ensure that foster carers know that they will be eligible for this provision and how to access support.

I am a foster carer who is over 70 and/or has an underlying health condition. I don’t want to send a child to school as they may bring back the virus. Do I have to send?

If you have concerns about your health, or that of someone in your household, you should discuss this with your social worker to ensure that this is taken into account when assessing what is in the best interests of your foster child.

See the guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults.

Curriculum and activities at during the temporary schools closure

Is it guaranteed that children will attend their usual school?

In most cases where this is possible. The LA will work with trusts and schools to ensure that schools are kept open, but in some cases this will not be possible. Local authorities and schools will make the most appropriate arrangements and talk to parents about this. It may not always be possible for children to attend their usual school in order to ensure that children and staff are kept safe. Parents should apply to their usual school in the first instance.

Will schools be delivering a curriculum to pupils that attend school during the period of temporary closure?

No. Schools will do whatever they can to ensure that activities that are put in place are of educational value but they will be unable to deliver a planned curriculum in the way that they would do normally. It is probably best to consider the provision available as ‘childcare’ and not ‘education’. 

What will my child be doing at the education setting?

This may be different across settings, so please discuss this with them directly.

Will schools still be able to exclude pupils from the provision that is made available?

It would be unusual for a school/education setting to exclude children in these very unusual circumstances given that they are not providing education and the normal rules around exclusions will not apply. However, schools/education settings must ensure the safety of staff and pupils in their care and may ask some pupils or parents to no longer attend for a fixed period or permanently.

Does Infant Class Size legislation continue to apply?

No, but there will still be an assessment that individual settings will make to ensure that the provision that they have is safe and viable. 

My child requires medication – can an alternative school/education setting administer?

This should be discussed with the home and host school/education setting to see if this is possible or not. If it is not, it may be possible for the parent to come in and administer the medication if necessary but only by agreement by the host school/education setting.

Will my child need a new school uniform?

Each setting will decide whether school uniform is required, but if going to an alternative setting you would use your current school uniform (i.e. the one that the pupil usually wears to school).

My childcare provider is telling me that I need to continue to pay childcare fees when they are not open. Is this correct?

Providers have been asked to be reasonable and balanced in their dealings with parents in relation to fees. Childcare providers will be financially impacted as a result of covid-19, therefore, the government announced on 17 March that they would not claw back early years entitlements funding from local authorities during closures, or where children are withdrawn because of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This protects a significant proportion of early years providers’ income. In addition, the government has set out a range of support for businesses to reduce the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) on them.

Will my child have access to Free School Meals if he or she is not defined as vulnerable or their parents are not considered critical workers?

Free School Meals guidance has been published today. This guidance explains what schools should be doing to make sure eligible pupils have continued access to free school meals where:

(i) the pupil has to stay at home because they and/or wider family members are displaying COVID-19 (Coronavirus) related symptoms

(ii) the school is only open for certain groups or is closed temporarily

Parents should contact individual schools about how they are proposing to make free school meals available for those that are eligible but please be aware this may not always be possible in the circumstances. The Government are currently developing a national approach to providing support through supermarket and shop vouchers. We will provide further details shortly.

Will you provide transport as I don’t want to use public transport?

No, unless you are usually entitled to SEN transport - any questions on this please contact SEN.Transport@cognus.org.uk 

Information and advice when considering the needs of your Young Carers:

  1. Do you know who your Young Carers are? If a child lives with a family member who has a mental or physical illness, disability or who misuses drugs or alcohol, then that student is very likely to pick up some level of emotional, practical, personal care and/or support. If you are not sure who your Young Carers are, now is the time to start having those conversations with staff and students.
  2. Speak to your Young Carers to see how they and their families are currently managing mentally, physically, practically, financially etc. If their family member is self-isolating, it is very likely that their caring role has increased
  3. Have any students, not identified as Young Carers, suddenly started arriving late for school, appear distracted, unusually tired or you’ve seen a change in their behaviour? They may be a Young Carer with a family member self-isolating, so please speak with them to check.
  4. Add Young Carers to your list of vulnerable students, this includes considering whether they need to be part of the cohort of vulnerable children coming into school. 
  5. Please be aware that safeguarding issues may arise if they start assuming inappropriate caring roles due to an overwhelmed health and social care system. Also this is likely to be a time when Young Carers feel increased levels of loneliness and isolation.
  6. If the family caring needs increase, is there a plan for making sure that other friends and family can step in? Is there a plan for if the Young Carers gets ill or develops Covid-19?
  7. If you haven’t already, appoint a Young Carers Lead to oversee this process specifically for Young Carers.
  8. Provide all Young Carers with the details of support services that they can access during this time – encouraging them to call us at Sutton Carers Centre Young Carers Service for emotional as well as practical reasons.
  9. Please ensure they know that concerns about a family member’s care can still be discussed with the Local Authority on 020 8770 5000 (24 hours for safeguarding concerns or for ‘emergency covering care’) and health concerns via NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency.
  10. Please call Sutton Carers Centre if you would like to discuss or refer a Young Carer and continue to follow your usual safeguarding procedures.

Available Support at Sutton Carers Centre:

  • Sutton Carers Centre will remain open during our usual office hours to provide information, advice and support to you as professional colleagues as well as Young and Adult Carers and their families and friends. 
  • For the time being they will maintain skeleton staff in the Centre office, with all remaining staff working from home to maintain telephone and internet-based service levels.
  • Sutton Carers Centre have postponed all face-to-face, group and individual support sessions (unless exceptional and appropriately risk-assessed), but can provide a skilled, consistent telephone support service that can help with concerns including financial impact, practical advice around contingency planning, and emotional support.
  • Services will continue to Parent Carers of children who are ill or disabled, as well as Carers of all ages who are supporting an Adult Child, Sibling, Spouse, Parent/Grandparent or other family member or friend.