A postcode lottery means thousands of children with health conditions in England are missing out on the support they need at school, leaving them unable to reach their full academic potential.
In a letter to The Times, The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance, which represents over a million children with health needs such as Type 1 diabetes, migraine, epilepsy and asthma, is calling on the Government to amend the Children and Families Bill to require schools to provide the support for these children. Under the current system, many of them are effectively prevented from meeting their full educational potential because the additional support they need as a result of their condition is not in place.
Current approach "not working"
It is still up to individual schools whether or not they provide the support to enable children with health conditions to fully benefit from their time at school. But evidence from families collected by the charities shows that the current voluntary approach is not working. While many schools already offer excellent support for children with health conditions, there are too many examples where children experience avoidable ill health, bullying, and stigma at school.
Some children also face discrimination in relation to school trips and extracurricular activities, meaning they are effectively excluded from some elements of education and prevented from meeting their full educational potential.
No requirements for health conditions
The Children and Families Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, will include a statutory requirement for schools to meet the needs of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). There will, however, be no such requirement on schools to meet the needs of children who have a health condition but do not have SEN. The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance (which includes Diabetes UK) is calling for the Bill to also include a statutory requirement for schools to provide support under these circumstances.
No plans for amendment
The Government is not currently planning to amend the Bill in this way, as it claims children with health conditions are already protected by the Children Act 1989 and the Equality Act 2010, a position repeated at a recent Bill committee hearing by Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.
We are disappointed by this response, and believe that the current system is not working, as many children with health conditions are not supported. We also believe that it is unreasonable to expect parents of children with health conditions to be able to launch legal challenges based on these two Acts to get the care their child requires.
Children with Type 1 diabetes not getting support
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "Every child has a right to education, but parents and carers are telling us that their children with Type 1 diabetes are facing difficulties getting the support they need to manage their condition in school, to participate in normal school life and progress academically.
"These difficulties include children not being allowed access to their insulin, which they need to regulate their blood glucose level, or to eat snacks in class if their blood glucose levels drop, and discrimination around school trips and extracurricular activities. Many parents are also having to take time off work to come into school to administer their child’s insulin, which is completely unacceptable.
"In its current form, the Children and Families Bill is a missed opportunity and falls short of the Department for Education’s own commitment to ensure that all children and young people can succeed, no matter what their background. We want to see the Bill amended to ensure that children with health needs are not forgotten and finally get the care and support they desperately need in school."
The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance
The following charities are calling for the Children and Families Bill to be amended to include a statutory requirement on schools to provide support to children with health conditions:
- Diabetes UK
- The Anaphylaxis Campaign
- Association of Young People with ME
- Asthma UK
- British Heart Foundation
- Cystic Fibrosis Trust
- Epilepsy Action
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
- Migraine Action
- Migraine Trust
- Sickle Cell and Young Stroke Survivors
- The School and Public Health Nurses Association
- RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)
- Young Epilepsy