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Back to School? and other things

Dear All

It feels as though lockdown is, in many ways, a quiet time – thank goodness for the fine weather and that we are now all allowed out! Even the ice cream vans are out.

The first item is a verbatim newsflash – published today - from the Department for Education regarding going back to school…

1. Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening

2. The Family Fund

3. CDC - Frequently Asked Questions – Issue 4

4. Flexible use of the Activity Fund for children and young people with disabilities

5. Beta testing of AfC Bot starts

6. Cats are brilliant!

1 Supporting children and young people with SEND as schools and colleges prepare for wider opening.

26th May 2020 - Special Education Needs Division, Department for Education


“Dear Colleague,

On 10 May, the Prime Minister announced that, subject to the government’s five key tests being met at the time, schools, colleges and early years settings, will be opening to more children and young people.

From 1 June at the earliest, we will be asking primary schools to welcome back children in nursery, Reception, year 1 and year 6, alongside priority groups (vulnerable children and children of critical workers). We will also ask nurseries and other early years providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children. From 15 June 2020 at the earliest, we will ask secondary schools, sixth form and further education colleges to offer some face-to-face support to supplement the remote education of year 10 and year 12 students who are due to take key exams next year, alongside the full time provision they are offering to priority groups.

Alternative provision settings should mirror the approach being taken for mainstream schools and also offer some face-to-face support for years 10 and 11 students (as they have no year 12). Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools will work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups. For special schools and hospital schools this applies from 1 June; for special post-16 institutions this applies from 15 June.

New guidance on how this applies to children and young people with SEND has been published and can be found at:

Children and young people with SEND in mainstream and Alternative Provision settings who have not been attending and are in eligible year groups should experience the same return to their settings as their peers, informed by their individual circumstances and risk assessments.

Special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools should work towards welcoming back as many children and young people as can be safely catered for in their setting, based on the child or young person’s risk assessment but not using their year group as a primary deciding factor

In both mainstream and special settings:

o Children and young people with EHC plans who are already attending their education setting, because they have been risk assessed as safe or safer in school/college, should continue to attend after 1 June, whatever year group they are in.

o Educational settings and local authorities should keep risk assessments up to date, to ensure they are able to offer places to pupils and students, whatever year group they are in, where appropriate.

o Children and young people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and shielding, or who live in a household with somebody this applies to, will not be expected to attend in person.

We are grateful to all those in the SEND sector for continuing to care for, teach and support vulnerable children and young people in these difficult times. We will continue to work with you to provide the best possible care, learning and support for children and young people with SEND, and the staff and families who support them.”

2 The Family Fund

19th May 2020 - Special Education Needs Division, Department for Education


“The Government today announced that the Family Fund will receive funding of £37.3m in 2020-21. This includes £10m which has been allocated to help families in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. More details can be found here:

The Family Fund provides grants to families on low incomes who have disabilities or severe medical conditions. You can find out more about the Family Fund here:

3 CDC - Frequently Asked Questions – Issue 4

Published 19th May 2020 by the Council for Disabled Children (CDC)


“Further to the recent launch of our CDC Questions email please click on the link to download the latest in the series of weekly CDC FAQs: “

4 Flexible use of the Activity Fund for children and young people with disabilities

22nd May 2020 - Achieving for Children (AfC),

“Due to the current situation and restrictions in place, the way in which we offer the Activity Fund will be flexible. The Activity Fund usually provides £140.00 towards activities for eligible children and young people to take part in, each financial year. These activities include activities such as swimming sessions, annual passes, and activity clubs during term time and during school holidays. As these activities remain unavailable for the foreseeable future, we are offering alternative use of the Activity Fund until the usual activities can be accessed again.

Examples of activity options that may be agreed:

Bubble machine, Trampoline, Board games, Bicycle, Scooter, Keyboard/ electronic device, Garden toys, Online subscriptions e.g. Zoom, Online fitness classes, Online course e.g. art/ photography class, Sensory lights, Instruments.”

If you have any questions please contact the Activity Fund Administrator:

Christine Anson

T: 020 8547 5562


The full article is here:

5 Beta testing of AfC Bot starts

22nd May 2020 - Achieving for Children (AfC),

If you or your young people have time, and would like to do something a bit different, please test this ChatBot. Its only as good as the questions has learned (automated memory) and therefore your feedback directly develops this assistance.

“Some of you may be aware that AfC successfully bid for some funding from the Local Government Association's (LGA) Digital Inclusion Fund to develop a Chatbot. A chatbot is a computer program that processes written conversation, allowing humans to interact with digital devices as if they were communicating with a real person. The chatbot can only respond to questions it has been programmed to answer.

The new Chatbot, named AfC Bot is now live in a test format on the SEND Local Offer section of the AfCinfo website. The aim is for AfC Bot to eventually assist website users in navigating the full AfCinfo website.

AfC Bot in the Beta phase means that the chatbot is not fully complete. This is the phase where real website users trial the chatbot and uncover any issues that require fixing before the chatbot can go fully live. During the test phase the AfC Bot is not programmed with the full range of information on our sites - this will come later.

We will continually review the questions that website users are asking the chatbot to ensure that we programme the chatbot with additional information.

When talking to the chatbot, we recommend you:

· Ask questions related to information that resides on the Local Offer website.

· Ask questions in full sentences, rather than just using single search terms.

· Do not share your personal information.

· Download and save the chat if there is information you would like to come back to later (the chat will automatically be deleted after 30 minutes of inactivity).

Try it out yourself and give us your feedback using the feedback link at the end of the chat. “

You will find the AfC Chat Bot here:

6 Cats are brilliant!

We’ve probably all seen more than enough jolly video’s and photographs over the past couple of months – and I do like to end on something jolly. So… an example to us all.

If you have any questions at all, please ask and I'll do my best to find an answer.

With best wishes, Romany



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