Schools could be sending pupils home ‘too readily’ amid pandemic – Ofsted chief

Some schools may be sending children home “too readily” amid the coronavirus pandemic, the chief inspector of Ofsted has said.

Parents of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) pupils have been told that schools cannot accommodate their children due to Covid-19 risk assessments, according to Amanda Spielman.

Speaking at the online National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC), the chief inspector called for a “simplification of government advice” for schools to help parents and teachers as we enter winter.

“There are indications that schools may sometimes be sending pupils home too readily,” Ms Spielman told local authority professionals.

She highlighted a rise in the number of parents opting to home school this term – and “quite a proportion” of the children have special educational needs.

Ms Spielman said: “And here, many parents haven’t made an active decision to keep their child at home – they’ve been told that schools can’t accommodate them.

“Because it’s too difficult, because Covid risk assessments won’t allow it. It’s deeply concerning and, understandably, many parents feel cut adrift.”

She added: “For the children with SEND that have been able to get back into education, it hasn’t been plain sailing either.

“We’re hearing that many have suffered setbacks in their communication skills – probably down to having reduced social interaction for such a long time.

“And, although some people are working really creatively to help families, this is an ongoing concern.

“We’ll be looking at this more in the next report from our autumn visits.”

Her comments come after school attendance dropped from 89% to 86% in the week ahead of the October half-term break.

Around 82% of secondary school pupils were in class on October 22, while attendance in primary schools dropped to 90%.

More than half (55%) of secondary schools in England had at least one pupil self-isolating due to potential contact with a Covid-19 case inside the school on October 22, Department for Education (DfE) statistics show.

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