A group of national health charities, including the Anaphylaxis Campaign, have welcomed new statutory guidance to improve support in schools to over 1 million children with long-term medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, Type 1 diabetes, stroke, coeliac disease and anaphylaxis.
The new statutory guidance was issued to schools today (Thursday 15th May) by the Government following its landmark decision last year to amend the Children and Families Act so that from September schools in England will be legally required to provide the high quality support children with medical conditions need.
The guidance for the new law is statutory and sets out the practical support schools will be expected to provide to support children with medical conditions, such as making sure they have individual healthcare plans in place and training and support for school staff.
The charities, who form the Health Conditions in Schools Alliance, represent over a million children with health needs. They called for this legal protection as under the current system while many schools already offer excellent support for children with health conditions, there are too many examples where children with health needs are prevented from meeting their full educational potential as a result of ill health, bullying, and stigma at school.
Some children also face discrimination in relation to school trips and extra-curricular activities, which means they are effectively excluded from leading a full and active school life. In addition, some schools fail to support the social and emotional implications associated with medical conditions.
The charities are calling on schools to implement the Government’s new guidance and work with parents, local authorities and health services to help ensure children with medical conditions can get the high quality support they need in school.
Mandy East, National Coordinator for Anaphylaxis Campaign, said: “Research indicates that as many as one in 50 UK children may be allergic to nuts. Occasionally the symptoms are severe and they may even be life-threatening. Peanut is not the only food capable of triggering severe allergic reactions. Others include egg, milk, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and kiwifruit and many more may be implicated on rare occasions. The most severe form of allergy (anaphylaxis) is manageable, provided there is good communication amongst parents, school staff, doctors and education authorities. With sound precautionary measures and support from the staff, school life may continue as normal for all concerned. These new guidelines will further ensure this support is provided to severely allergic children.”
Kay Boycott, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, said: “We are delighted the Government has produced new guidance that makes it clear to schools what they need to do to support children who have a medical condition such as asthma. On average there are two children in every classroom with asthma but many of these children are not receiving the support they need at school. Too often children with asthma are missing out on lessons, school trips and activities, or are being denied access to their own inhalers, which is putting their lives at risk. This is why the new duty on every school in England is so important, and will make a huge difference to the lives of more than one million children with asthma.”
Mary-Jane Willows, Chief Executive of the Association of Young People with ME, said: “With a stronger emphasis on training for school staff, and a more flexible approach, the revised legislation calls for a much more collaborative approach between schools and local authorities. Every young person is different, so these important amends should ensure individual healthcare plans identify the specific support each child needs to reintegrate effectively.
“Although the new Children and Families Act is a welcome change, the recommendations can still be improved. The Act still states if consensus cannot be reached on whether an individual healthcare plan is needed, the head teacher is best placed to take a final view. This may well present issues for our members because of the lack of awareness, acceptance and understanding of ME/CFS. We will continue to do all we can to have this amended.”
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said:
“Life can be tough for children living with heart conditions, a reality which schools have not necessarily appreciated.
“That daily challenge can impact on a child’s chance of succeeding in school and isolate them from their peers. This guidance will ensure that schools have to devise plans to give children with heart conditions the support they need in order to thrive.”
Laura Courtney, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at CLIC Sargent, said: “Families of children with cancer tell us that tailored support when a child or young person first returns to school following a period of illness can make a real difference to their future education and development. This new statutory guidance is a really significant step towards ensuring that schools can feel confident in providing this support. We look forward to working with schools, local authorities and the NHS to ensure that children and young people with health conditions such as cancer can continue their education during and beyond treatment.”
Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease said: “The recognition in law that children with long term conditions need recognition and support at school to fulfill their full potential will be welcomed by parents everywhere. Now the trick is to translate words into action and as a charity with long experience of working with children who have coeliac disease, we are ready to offer a helping hand to schools in addressing their needs.”
Anne Keatley-Clarke, Chief Executive of the Children’s Heart Federation, said: “Going to school can be challenging for many children living with a heart condition. Children maybe be too tired to do a full school day, be restricted in their physical activity or require months off for heart surgery. We urge schools to use the new guidance to recognise and meet the individual needs of pupils with heart conditions, giving them the best opportunity participate to their full potential at school”.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We welcome the Government’s new statutory guidance as it will provide schools with the duties they will need to follow to help ensure over a million children with a medical condition will get the proper support that they need in school.
“Many of these children can face discrimination and avoidable ill health at school, which can badly dent their confidence and wellbeing and potentially lead to further health and educational problems later in life.
“We will be working with schools to help them implement these new duties so that they have the right policy, and practical support to meet the needs of children with medical conditions.”
Jenny Perez, Chief Executive of ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence), said:
“It's vital that schools have good policies and procedures in place to support children with toileting problems, and that school staff are trained to understand and manage the issues. School nurses can play a vital role in establishing care plans for children with toileting issues in partnership with parents and school staff, so that children receive the care they need and deserve”.
Suzie Hutchinson, Chief Executive of Little Hearts Matter, said: “Children born with complex heart disease strive to get as much from their lives as their heart condition will allow. Going to school is an important part of normal childhood providing a stepping stone to an independent adulthood. Little Hearts Matter is delighted to see this new guidance, provided to help teachers and schools understand the needs of children with long term non correctable conditions. Hopefully it will ensure that children are taught in a safe and understanding environment that will allow them to reach their full potential.”
Wendy Thomas, Chief Executive of The Migraine Trust, said: “The Government’s new guidance is excellent news for pupils with migraine and other health conditions. We welcome this much needed change, which provides clarity on the responsibilities of schools, local authorities and health services for parents.
“For too long children and young people with medical needs have faced inconsistent support in school. For many children with migraine this has had a detrimental effect on educational attainment, self-confidence, emotional development and ability to maintain friendships.
“We do not underestimate the challenge that schools face in supporting the million children with a medical condition. The task now is to ensure that the guidance is properly implemented across the country, and that school staff and nurses have access to the condition specific information and training they need to do fulfill their role.”
Anna Panton, Child Stroke Project Manager at the Stroke Association, said: “It is welcome news that the Government has issued new guidance to schools setting out in clear detail what they need to do to support children with medical conditions. We know that children affected by stroke can struggle to get the care they need in school, which means that they are not able to fully participate in their education and lead a full and active school life. We now want to see all schools implement this new guidance as it has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of children with medical conditions.”