Complaining about inadequate special educational provision during the COVID-19 pandemic: COVID-19 Model letter B

How do I know what should usually be provided and who by?

Children and young people with special educational needs (“SEN”) but without EHC plans should receive SEN Support from their nursery, school or college. The particular support they require should be set out in a written plan.

Nurseries, schools and colleges have a duty to use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure the support identified as necessary is provided.

(Please note this duty does not apply to private nurseries, schools or colleges. To make a complaint about a setting of this kind, you should follow their complaints procedure.)

Does the nursery, school or college still have to arrange this help?

Yes – although this may be in a different form to usual if the child or young person is not attending school or college.

Below we have set out the situation for children who are (or should be) attending school, and those who remain outside of the groups entitled to attend school.

The model letter linked above can be adapted depending on your individual situation.

Children and young people who are entitled to attend

There are certain groups of children and young people who are entitled to attend their nursery, school or college.

For the below categories, you can adapt the complaint letter depending on whether your child is attending school but is not receiving adequate support, or whether you have been told they cannot attend school despite being entitled to do so.

If your child falls into any of the below categories but you have been told they cannot attend school because they would be too difficult to manage, or because it will be difficult to provide the support they need, this could be disability discrimination.

Vulnerable children

Some children without EHC plans but who are considered to have complex needs will have been offered a place in school as a ‘vulnerable child’ while schools were largely closed. Children in this category will likely have been subject to a risk assessment by the local authority (“LA”) or the educational setting.

For children in this category, the educational setting should be using their best endeavours to provide the support they need. If there could be a risk to the child or young person’s health, wellbeing or safety if they do not receive a particular provision or intervention, raise this with your school without delay. The guidance on supporting children and young people with SEND may help you prepare your letter.

Children who have a social worker are also classed as vulnerable children.

Children of critical workers

The children of critical workers should also have been offered a place in school throughout the period of lockdown. You can find information about which jobs fall into this category here.

Certain year groups

Children who are in early years settings, Reception, Year 1 or Year 6 should have been offered the opportunity to return to school from 1 June 2020. The government has published guidance for early years settings and primary schools on how this should work in practice.

Children and young people in Year 10 and Year 12 should have been offered some face-to-face support from 15 June 2020. There is guidance for secondary schools and further education colleges which provides more detail.

Children and young people who are not entitled to attend

If your child does not fall into any of the above categories, they are unlikely to be entitled to attend. However, nurseries, schools and colleges should still be using their best endeavours to provide support at home.

This is likely to look quite different to how their support would normally look – for example, it is likely to be delivered remotely. However, you could certainly argue that the nursery, school or college is failing to use their best endeavours if they are providing the child or young person with only generic work which fails to take into account their individual needs.

Should I speak to the nursery, school or college about this before making a formal complaint?

Yes, definitely. Speak to your child’s class or subject teacher, the SENCO and the head teacher or principal about your worries. They may have suggestions of ways that your child or young person could be supported without the need for escalating the matter to a formal complaint.

Even if your child or young person is not currently attending school or college, you should be able to contact a member of school staff.

When should I complain?

Given the impending summer holidays, you should complain as soon as you consider that, despite raising the issue with the SENCO or head teacher, it has not been addressed appropriately.

Who should I write to?

Write to the Chair of Governors (if the setting has a governing body) or the proprietor of the setting. The nursery, school or college’s website should have information on how to make a complaint and who to address this to. You can also read our page on complaining to an education setting.

Remember to keep a copy of any letter or email you send.

If you need further advice, you can book an appointment to speak with us.