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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Access to education for children and young people with medical needs

Most children with medical needs can attend school and, with some support, take part in the majority of school activities. If your child can’t go to school because of health problems, your local authority has a responsibility to make arrangements for them to continue their education.

If your child gets sick at school

Schools must, by law, provide a space which can be used for the treatment of sick or injured pupils, and for first aid and medical examinations.

Ideally, this means two separate spaces, both containing a washbasin and reasonably near to a toilet:

  • a 'sick room' – ideally, this should be close to the school’s reception and main office
  • a 'medical inspection' room

Under this type of arrangement, the inspection room could be used for other purposes (though not for teaching), as long as it’s always available for medical inspections.

Support for medical needs at school

Most pupils with medical conditions won’t need to take their medicine during the school day. But if your child does - or if they need to have access to their medication in case of emergencies - you should make an appointment to talk to the headteacher about it as soon as possible.

The headteacher will be able to tell you what support is available. This issue should be covered in the school’s health and safety policy. If there’s a need to clarify exactly what the school can do, they may suggest drawing up a health care plan.

School staff aren’t obliged to help your child manage their medication (unless they are employed to do it - for example, as a healthcare assistant). But staff who volunteer to do so should get the proper training.

Schools are advised to consult medical professionals on these issues. Be patient if your school takes a cautious approach.

You can find guidance for schools on developing a policy on medical support - and information on health plans - through Teachernet’s page on ‘Managing medicines in schools’. It also has links to information about some of the more common conditions which may require support in school.

If your child can’t attend school: the role of the school

Your child's school has a vital role to play, and you should let them know if it becomes clear that your child will be away for a substantial amount of time. This is especially important if they are likely to be off school for more than three weeks. The school should:

  • have a policy and a person responsible for dealing with pupils who are unable to go to school because of medical needs
  • let the local authority know if your child will be, or is likely to be, away from school for more than 15 working days
  • supply the person who will help provide education for your child with information about their needs, capabilities and a programme of work
  • provide support to help them reintegrate at school after an illness
  • ensure that they're kept informed about school social events and after-school clubs
  • encourage them to stay in contact with other pupils – for example, through visits or videos

If your child can’t attend school: the role of your local authority

If your child is too sick to go to school, your local authority will look to provide them with as normal an education as an illness allows.

This may mean, for example, arranging access to home teaching, a hospital school or hospital teaching service or an integrated hospital/home education service.

Local authorities should have a senior officer in charge of overseeing the arrangements. They should also have a written policy setting out how they will go about meeting their responsibilities.

The local authority is responsible for ensuring that pupils:

  • are not at home without access to education for more than 15 working days
  • have access to education from the start, if it’s clear that they will be away from school for long and recurring periods
  • receive an education of similar quality to that available in school
  • get their minimum entitlement of five hours teaching per week if they’re educated at home because of illness, as long as their health permits it

Standards for the education of children with medical needs

There are national minimum standards of education for children who cannot attend school because they are ill or injured, outlined in guidance called 'Access to education for children and young people with medical needs'.

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