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Schools and families

Help save lives by keeping your child at home if you can 

Schools and childcare settings are now only open to the most vulnerable children and those whose parents' work is critical to the coronavirus response.

Only send your child to school if you have to because your work is critical to the coronavirus response. If you can keep your child safe at home, do so.

We've gathered some resources to help you and your children during the coming weeks including activities, arts, crafts and games.

If you can't care for your children at home

Many parents classified as critical workers may be able to make sure their child is kept at home. Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.

As parents you should not rely on people who are advised to be in the stringent social distancing category for childcare if they have underlying conditions, such as:

  • grandparents
  • friends
  • family members

As parents you should do everything you can to make sure your children are not mixing socially in a way that can continue to spread the virus. You must make sure children observe the same social distancing principles as adults.

We know this is really difficult, but by keeping your child safe at home and not taking up a school place for a critical worker or a vulnerable child, you will help save lives.

Find childcare if your child is vulnerable or you're a critical worker

Find information about who can use childcare and find childcare settings who are open during the coronavirus emergency.

Eligibility for all the different childcare funding schemes have not changed. If you've received a golden ticket for 2 year old funding you can use it now if you're in one of the priority groups, or when childcare re-opens for everyone.

Definition of critical workers and vulnerable children 

The government has now confirmed their definition of both critical workers and vulnerable children and young people.

This includes all council Children’s Services staff.

If you think you are a critical worker, you should confirm with your employer that your specific role qualifies as critical.  

Vulnerable children 

Vulnerable children include:

  • children who are supported by social care
  • those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans
  • ‘looked after’ children
  • young carers
  • disabled children
  • those with an education, health  and care (EHC) plan. If your child has an EHC plan but you can look after them safely at home, you do not need to send them to school

Find the latest Public Health England advice for schools, including posters for use in schools.

School information during the coronavirus pandemic

Easter holidays arrangements

Schools will be open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children over the Easter holidays.

Some schools are considering opening for the 2 banks holidays for families who need it. Your school will confirm arrangements directly with you.

Will my child go to a different school?

It's unlikely that every school will be able to remain open as normal, depending on the number of children attending and staff cover. 

Schools are working together in clusters to make sure children who need to go to school can. This may mean bringing children from several schools in an area together into one school. This may mean your child will have to be in a different school building to keep them and staff safe. Your school will contact you if this happens, so together you can make the most appropriate arrangements for your child.

Plans to help schools

We are supporting teachers to keep school provision available for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. We are increasing the number of council staff supporting schools. This includes council employees who may be able to stand down from existing roles to provide community coordination and support to schools. 

School applications

Find updated information about appeals for a school place refusal.

Free school meals update

We're making sure that we're able to provide a meal for all children who would normally get a free school meal, whether they're in school or not. Individual schools are making plans for their children and they will share this information with parents.

Many schools are using Sodexo and may email parents directly. Neither the council, school or Sodexo will ask you for your bank details.

Children eligible to attend school who do not normally receive free school meals will need to bring a packed lunch.

Warning: free school meals scam

We've been made aware of a scam about free school meals. Some families have been sent an email asking for them to send their bank details to 'make sure they are supported'.

We'll never ask for your details: please ignore any emails like this and report as spam. We're working with schools to make sure all children who'd normally get a free school meal do so, whether they're in school or not. Schools, or in some cases Dorset Council, will be in touch with you to confirm your arrangements.

Find more information about free school meals.

School transport 

Families with children still attending school are increasingly choosing to transport their own children to school. Please transport your children if you can. We will continue to provide transport where needed. We will contact parents if there are any changes to the service.

Find updated information about appeals for a school transport decision.

School uniform 

Your school will tell you whether children need to wear school uniform. 

Home learning support for children 

Your school will be in contact with you about how best to support your children’s learning while they are not in school. 

You can find materials for home education that have been approved by our educational psychology service.

We understand that these are very difficult times and we want to thank you for helping us to make sure that that we can provide a place for only children of critical workers and vulnerable children who have no other option available to them.

SEND families: special schools and services

Find useful support and guidance from the Council for Disabled Children.

Our frontline teams are currently looking at every child's situation and their needs. This is a difficult time and we know that it may be even more challenging for our SEND families. 

We're making contingency plans and speaking to health providers to help meet the needs of those with the most complex health needs. Our staff are working to provide support, sometimes in different ways.

Our education team are working with local schools and educational settings. You will have been contacted by your school about arrangements.

Our commissioning teams are working with all of our service providers, including: 

  • residential settings
  • schools 
  • short breaks providers

This is so they understand their business continuity plans and to talk to them about different ways of delivering support to families if they close, either because of staff shortages or if they're forced to close. We're assessing where services may need to be delivered differently and how we'll support them to do that. 

Our teams are working with many community providers to consider how to help and support vulnerable families, particularly those who are eligible for free school meals.

We have already made extra resources available to food banks and are working with our schools and school meal providers to find the best way of supporting families who will need it over the coming months.

We're also working hard to keep the EHC plan process moving. Assessments for an EHC plan may look different as it becomes more difficult to do our work face to face. We may need to do more by telephone or video calls where possible. Our decision-making panels are moving to online meetings. We'll continue to review this. 

Sign up for our SEND newsletter for regular updates. 

Special schools

Our special schools are particularly under pressure as a number of children have additional health conditions that mean they should not be in school. Individual schools will work with their parents to make arrangements for their children and will contact parents directly.

SEND travel arrangements

Families with children still attending school are increasingly choosing to transport their own children to school. Please transport your children if you can. 

We will continue to provide transport where needed and we will contact you about any changes to the service. Families can claim for petrol and wear and tear expenses for their journeys to school. This will not affect any benefits you may get. 

Contact the SEN Travel Team to claim your SEND travel expenses:

SENDIASS drop-in sessions

The SENDIASS drop-in sessions have been cancelled until further notice.

You have a safeguarding concern

Contact us if you're concerned about a child in Dorset.

Children's Centres and coronavirus

All Children's Centres in Dorset are now closed.

We're still available to offer support to you and your family. Contact your local Family Partnership zone.

Children's Centre nurseries

Our 2 Children's Centre nurseries are open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers only: 

Dorset Music Service

Find out more about our plans for music tuition and rehearsals during the coronavirus emergency.

Contact services for looked after children

Find out about contact services for looked after children during the coronavirus emergency.

Dorset Young Carers Service

Find out how we can support you during the coronavirus emergency.

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