As we discussed in our blog on 19 March 2020, there has been speculation since the beginning of lockdown about proposed changes to the Children and Families Act 2014 imposed by Schedule 16 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. The Act provided for changes to Section 42, which confers a duty on a local authority to secure the educational provision specified in a child or young person’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan).
This change is now in force. On Friday 1 May, the government issued a modification notice under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which means that local authorities need only make “reasonable endeavours” to comply with this duty in relation to EHC Plans.
While there is no longer an absolute obligation to put in place the provision named in the EHC Plan, which allows local authorities greater flexibility to provide education for SEN students at different schools and in different ways, local authorities must still show the efforts they are taking to comply with the duty.
For students required to attend an unfamiliar school and with support from potentially unfamiliar staff, this modification will of course have an immense impact. Many SEN students struggle with change. There are also ramifications for other provision such as Speech and Language Therapy or Occupational Therapy. Local authorities will again have to demonstrate that reasonable endeavours have been made to ensure this provision continues at this time.
The notice advises that the notice is for a specified period only and is currently due to finish at the end of 31 May 2020. Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education could of course extend this modification beyond the current 31 May end date.
This blog was written by Louise Plumstead, Paralegal – Education Team.employ