Information

Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting children and young people with complex additional support needs

Non-statutory guidance for local authorities and schools to support children and young people with complex additional support needs in mainstream schools, units and special schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

This document is part of a collection


Purpose of this guidance

This guidance supplements the existing Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance  and the Coronavirus (COVID 19): schools reopening arrangements

It has been developed in partnership with the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group, as well as other key partners. 

It seeks to highlight specific issues, safety measures and mitigations to support the management of risk towards  ensuring a safe environment for the learning and teaching of children with complex additional support needs in mainstream schools, units and special schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Specific advice from Public Health Scotland confirms that when the appropriate mitigations and safety measures outlined in this guidance and the Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance are implemented children and young people with complex additional support needs and staff are not more susceptible to contracting coronavirus. There is to date no evidence that in-school transmission is a significant driver of increasing infection levels.  However, the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19 means that reopening schools fully at this time would not be consistent with a safety-first approach for children, young people and school staff.

Vulnerable children and young people

Only children and young people who have been identified as vulnerable or children of keyworkers should currently attend school.  Not all children and young people with complex additional support needs will be assessed as vulnerable as defined in the most recent guidance. The aim of providing continued care to vulnerable children is to prioritise their continued safety and welfare which may rely on the support delivered within a school setting.  Those who work directly with children and young people with complex additional support needs are best placed to identify which children and young people are vulnerable and should attend schools at this time. 

When determining which vulnerable children should attend school in person, local authorities and schools should have regard to the overarching policy aim of the Coronavirus (COVID 19): schools re-opening arrangements.  The purpose of the policy is to reduce the number of children, young people and adults from different households interacting in-person within communities (including schools) as far as possible, in order to prevent COVID-related harms. If it is possible for children and young people, including those with complex additional support needs, to be cared for safely and have their learning supported sufficiently well at home, that approach should be the preferred one. It should not be assumed automatically that all children with complex additional support needs are within the category of ‘vulnerable’ in this context.

Risk assessments

It is a legal requirement that local authorities and headteachers ensure that individual and organisational risk assessments are conducted and regularly monitored, reviewed and updated, in full consultation with staff and their trade unions.  The enhanced risk of infection from the new variant of Covid 19 should prompt revisiting of risk assessments where this has not already been done, to reflect current circumstances. These assessments should  consider local circumstances, training needs, the domestic arrangements of pupils and staff, travel requirements, size, physical layout and ventilation of school buildings, pupil wellbeing and public health and hygiene requirements.   Where there are any concerns relating to risk assessment staff should in the first instance raise these with their line manager in line with local procedures.   

It is important that following risk assessments, appropriate risk mitigation measures are identified and that the resources needed to implement them are made available, and mitigations adopted and consistently applied to reduce the risk identified.

It is recognised that children and young people with complex additional support needs who have been identified as vulnerable and who are attending school, may be finding this an anxious time, as will their parents, carers and staff.  It is important that schools and local authorities regularly communicate with parents and carers including sharing steps that are being taken to mitigate risk and keep children and young people with complex additional support needs safe. 

Every child and young person will have different levels of required support. Risk assessments play a key part in considering the individual needs of a child or young person as well as the relevant protection level of the local area. Risk assessments, which may be integrated into a Child’s Plan, should already exist for children and young people with complex additional support needs. These risk assessments should be reviewed and updated as appropriate, reflecting current circumstances.  Where they are not in place or they have not been updated they must be undertaken or reviewed swiftly in accordance with Coronavirus: reducing risks in schools guidance and local risk assessment guidance.

Visiting Professionals

While it is important that we reduce the number of adults visiting our schools we recognise there are a range of multi-agency partners who provide essential support for children and young people with complex additional support needs.  Those providing essential services key to the delivery of children’s care or educational plans, which cannot be provided remotely, including: Educational Psychology Service; Allied Health Professionals; Visual Impairment Services; School Nursing Services, should be able to continue to visit schools.  Prior to the visits, risk assessment should be undertaken and reviewed on a continuous basis and appropriate mitigations to prevent transmission of the virus in and between settings put in place. Mitigations should be determined via a co-produced risk assessment carried out by the school in collaboration with the partner services and the relevant trade unions.

School risk assessments outline the measures in place to mitigate risk of infection and these must be adhered to by visiting professionals during any visit. School staff have a responsibility to share and communicate these prior to the visit to ensure safety for all.  It is important that all members of the school community understand what measures are being put in place and why, and can cooperate to make them work. Further mitigations should be determined by the school in collaboration with the partner services and the relevant trade unions.

Transport

Where dedicated transport is provided for children and young people with complex additional support needs all adults  travelling with those children  should wear face coverings. However, this requires to be balanced with the wellbeing and needs of the child: face coverings may limit communication and could cause distress to some children and young people. Where risk assessment within a Child’s Plan has concluded that face coverings are not to be worn by adults in these circumstances, other appropriate mitigations should be put in place. 

Advice should be provided to parents and carers to support the effective cleaning of specialist equipment for children and young people with complex additional support needs who are using school transport. Local authorities should consider the support available for children and young people with complex additional support needs who are using school transport.  They should take appropriate actions to reduce risk where  adherence to hygiene rules and physical distancing for adults are not possible. As far as possible, windows should be opened.

Some children and young people with complex additional support needs, rely on taxi transfers to get to school. It is recommended that in private hire vehicles children and young people should travel on the back seat only and wear a face covering. As far as possible, windows should be opened.

Health and Safety covering physical distancing, face coverings and PPE

Where there are groupings of children with complex additional support needs, the balance of the staffing complement, the groupings of children and young people and their needs, and therefore the staffing and resources required, (PPE, cleaning of equipment), should be considered and assessed throughout the school day and adjusted where appropriate and necessary.  Risk assessments should be conducted in full consultation with staff and their trade unions, aligned to the relevant protection level and reviewed on a regular basis. 

Consideration should be given to:

  • the minimum space required to ensure the required 2m physical distancing between all adults who might be in a classroom at any time over the day;
  • minimising contact with others such as between groupings and maintaining 2m distancing for young people in secondary schools
  • the appropriate mitigations which may require to be adopted according to the nature of activity being undertaken and individual pupil needs;
  • the level and balance of risk in relation to infection control and pupils' needs, and the appropriate mitigations needed to address these risks and keep children, young people and staff safe;
  • the risk associated with planned learning activities which require adults to be in close contact with each other and with pupils in order to provide support.

Face coverings

Staff who support children and young people with complex additional support needs, may routinely have to work within two metres of the child and should wear face coverings when doing so. However, the use of opaque face coverings should be balanced with the wellbeing and needs of the individual child.  The impact on children and young people with complex additional support needs, including those who have any level of hearing loss, by staff wearing a face covering, should be carefully considered. Communication for many of these learners (including hearing impaired young people) relies in part on being able to see someone’s face clearly. Consideration should be given to the use of transparent face coverings or alternative, appropriate mitigations adopted which will properly safeguard both the child and the member of staff.  

Some children with complex additional support needs may not be able to wear face coverings as directed and therefore should not wear them as wearing them may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission. Scottish Government guidance on “Helping Others” sets out supportive approaches when interacting with hearing impaired people. The National Deaf Children’s Society has also suggested some ways in which communication with hearing impaired learners can be supported, in circumstances where face coverings are a barrier to communication.

PPE (including ventilation)

In line with current public health guidance, physical distancing should be implemented wherever practicable, including between older pupils especially.  It is recognised that this may not be possible or appropriate for some children and young people with complex additional support needs, for example, where close contact with staff is necessary for their wellbeing, administering medicine,  undertaking intimate care, or for moving and guiding.  Where this is the case, bespoke approaches with appropriate PPE and guidance on ventilation should be stringently followed in line with local infection control procedures that outline safety protocols. This includes procedures for when to change PPE and the disposal of soiled items.  The use of PPE should be determined based on an individual risk assessment. At all times the wellbeing, safety and best interests of the child or young person and staff must be paramount in any decision made.

Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP):

Staff performing aerosol generating procedures to support children and young people with complex needs should follow Scotland’s National Prevention and Infection Control Manual (NSS and HPS) guidance on aerosol generating procedures, and wear the correct personal protective equipment.  An AGP should be carried out away from the classroom or shared areas, in a designated room with the doors closed and any windows open.  Where this is not possible, for example for children and young people who require sporadic care, such as urgent tracheostomy tube suction, individual risk assessments should have been carried out in collaboration with partner services and the relevant trade unions and appropriate mitigations identified.

Cleaning

As is required within all establishments, it is necessary that appropriate cleaning arrangements are in place.  These include measures to maintain personal hygiene, enhance environmental cleaning, and cleaning of Fomites (objects or materials which may carry infection – including text books and jotters, etc.) 

Remote learning

Only children and young people who have been identified as vulnerable or children of keyworkers should currently attend school.  Those who are not attending school, should learn at home.  For all children and young people with complex additional support needs, personalised support should be in place to meet the needs of  individual child or young person. This support should be set within a model of inclusive learning policy and practice.  Local authorities and schools must ensure that individualised provisions and interventions are kept under constant review with robust tracking and monitoring of learning and wellbeing.

To support remote learning, Education Scotland has developed bespoke resources in collaboration with special schools to support planning for the individual support that children and young people with additional support needs may require during this time.  This includes specific resources for families in supporting children and young people with complex additional support needs at home

The resources take a wide range of formats and are grouped into the following categories:

  • Communication:
  • Movement, games and play
  • Making Sense of the World :
  • Daily routines and skills for independence 
  • Sensory activities

This is supplemented by the guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): Support for continuity in learning.  Parents and Carers can be directed to further resources which may support children and young people with complex additional support needs during this time.  Further information is available from Parent Club as well as local Allied Health Professionals and other partner services.

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