The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to specific issues in special schools and for SEND in mainstream schools. We have compiled checklists for special and mainstream schools, addressed your FAQs and created a Need to Know factsheet for SEND.

Can I wear a mask/face covering in school when I am working closely with a SEND child?

The NEU’s position (in line with HSE advice) is that any member of staff should be permitted to wear a mask or face covering should they wish to do so.  In this instance, this may be because of concerns about working closer than the recommended safe distancing with a child supporting their learning due to special educational needs or disability.

Use the questions in the joint union checklist and the special school checklist supplement to discuss with your school leaders the safest way of working with SEND pupils.

Some of the SEND students I work with in mainstream will find it difficult to adapt to new routines in September.  Can they have a more phased return to school?

The DfE advice for both special and mainstream schools (Annex B of the DfE Guidance for schools) emphasises the Government view that all children should be back at school in September.  It does, however, say that where students have challenging behaviours or social/emotional challenges arising as a response to lockdown a phased return may be appropriate. 

The NEU believes that where, in discussion with parents/carers, a phased approach is seen to be in the best interests of a child then it should be used by schools; and the child and their family should receive appropriate support throughout the phased return period from the school SENCO and/or key worker.  We would expect a blended learning approach to be used, if appropriate, in these cases.

Some of our pupils need personal care (changing etc).  What can staff do to keep safe when doing this?

Whenever intimate personal care is provided staff must wear gloves and aprons; this should be considered a priority for personal protective equipment.  Whether staff wear facemasks for undertaking personal care should be considered in individual risk assessment and discussion with the staff team.  Some special schools, who are screening pupils by taking their temperature on arrival consider, in conjunction with school nurses, wearing masks to be unnecessary.  However, advice from medical professionals in your school may differ.  It is important that this is negotiated with staff providing personal care so that all staff remain safe.

Most of the children in our school use dedicated school transport.  How can we make sure they are safe?

Local authorities and schools should be working together to make arrangements for the safe use of dedicated school transport including carrying out risk assessments for different pupils and journeys as well as for drivers and escorts.  Protocols for social distancing and agreed use of face coverings should be discussed as well as cleaning arrangements for vehicles.

The NEU joint checklist for schools includes questions to ask about safety on dedicated school transport.

I am an educational psychologist. How can myself and others, such as specialist teachers, keep safe when we are moving between schools?

The DfE advice states that peripatetic staff and specialist teachers can move between schools.  The NEU recommends that you ask to see the safety precautions that each school has in place before attending.  Where possible you may be able to continue some work using remote sources, particularly where medically vulnerable children continue their learning from home.

The NEU special school checklist and supply teachers checklist provide advice on the questions to ask regarding safety when moving between schools as a core element of your role.

SEND Coronavirus checklist

Guide for SENCOs and school leaders to questions schools should be addressing with regard to SEND students and arrangements for their safe return to school in the Autumn term.