Coronavirus parent SEND survey — August 2020

We were invited to help the National Audit Office (NAO) in their enquiry, in which they looked for a wide range of stakeholder voices, and we were pleased that they actively wanted to hear parent voice. We were able to supply them with a summary of our findings from our coronavirus polls, including specific issues for parents of children with SEND.

Key findings 

Parents of children with SEND should be given more time to choose whether or not to send their children back to school for the new academic year, according our research. 

While the majority of parents of children with SEND (64%) are willing for their child to return to school in September (32% have yet to decide whilst 5% say they will not), many SEND children have health conditions that put them at a higher risk from Covid-19. Many also have additional support needs when attending school, often formalised in an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), but requirements for schools to provide were relaxed during the crisis. This move has disrupted children’s learning and left parents not knowing how and if necessary support will be provided once schools return.

Our findings show that 90% of parents would like the right to decide whether or not their child with SEND goes to school in the autumn term. This comes as the government in Westminster makes attendance compulsory with few exceptions from September.

Our findings also show that nearly two thirds (72%) of parents who said they would not, or did not know if they would send their child back to school at the start of the next academic year said their biggest concern was the risk of their child catching Covid-19. Half (50%) were worried that social distancing would be impossible for their child, and over a third (39%) were concerned that their child would struggle to understand and manage any change in teachers and/​or class. Over a third (36%) were worried that their child will not get the same level of support that they had before. 

There is less confidence (compared to other parents) in returning children to school with no social distancing measures in place. Only 27% said they would be happy for their children to return to school without any. 44% would not be happy and 29% are unsure.

Our response 

Our Chief Executive, John Jolly says: Our data shows that policymakers and school leaders must provide additional clarity to parents of children with SEND about what schools will look like from September, as well as and what arrangements will be in place to ensure that their child will receive the provision they need and are entitled to. Many parents feel that their child has not had all of the necessary learning support and resources during lockdown, and this must be urgently addressed. Rather than introducing punitive non-attendance fines, we suggest the government communicates more clearly with parents about concrete plans for the next academic year. They must ensure that dialogue is two-way and that parents’ concerns are heard and addressed before the start of the new term.”

Jayne Spink, Chief Executive of Genetic Alliance UK said, The Parentkind survey highlights that many parents remain in the dark regarding the arrangements that will be made to support children with SEND in their return to school. It’s clear that interruption of education during lockdown has had a significant impact on their education and so getting kids back into school as soon as possible is a big and important step. Parents need to be confident that their child’s safety and wellbeing, and not the speed with which this happens, is the primary consideration.”

Our methodology 

A short online survey, promoted to parents of school-age children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND/SEN) via social media, was active between 5pm on 29th June and 9am on 13th July. 658 parents completed the survey. 71% of respondents were based in England, 12% in Wales and 17% in Northern Ireland. Parents with more than one child with SEND/SEN were invited to answer some of the questions for a second child. 50 parents did so, and explains why some of the questions have up to 708 responses. Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Download our report