Thousands of children with long-term medical conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, asthma and epilepsy are being put at risk in schools across England says the Health Conditions in Schools Alliance - a coalition of more than 30 leading charities and health organisations including Diabetes UK, Asthma UK and Crohn’s & Colitis UK.
Nine in ten schools in England asked could not present an adequate medical conditions policy, the Alliance reveals, based on new data disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act alongside investigations by Diabetes UK.
A medical conditions policy aids teachers and other school staff in caring for any child with long term health conditions and has been mandatory since September 2014.
Of the few schools that did provide a policy, two thirds were inadequate and missed key details such as staff training, how to safely include the child in all activities, and crucially, what to do in an emergency.
Sarah from Norfolk is working with Diabetes UK to improve the care children with Type 1 diabetes receive at school.
Sarah’s daughter, who is now at secondary school, did not receive good care at primary school, says the concerned mother.
"The school did not want the staff to be trained to ensure my daughter was safe at school."
“She was not allowed to go on trips or swimming or even take part in PE lessons as they were worried about her blood sugar levels dropping too low.
“Having to fight to keep your child safe at school every day is not something any parent should be worried about doing, especially on top of looking after a child with a long-term health condition.”
The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance says the Department for Education needs to do more to make schools aware of their legal responsibility to put medical conditions policies in place. It is also calling on OFSTED to start checking if schools are complying with the legislation that makes medical conditions policies compulsory.
Sharon Roberts, Diabetes UK Eastern regional head, said: “The law states all schools should have a medical conditions policy outlining how to care for any children with medical conditions, the procedures for getting the right care and training, and who is responsible for making sure the policy is carried out.
“Without this document in place, staff may not know how to properly care for a child with a medical condition which can lead to very dangerous consequences, and in a worst case scenario; death.
“OFSTED need to check for medical conditions policies as part of its inspections to ensure schools are doing everything in their power to keep children safe. The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance is currently in talks with the Department for Education, but it needs to be more active in letting schools know it is their legal duty to produce and implement this document.”
London mother Louise started a petition to get OFSTED and the Department of Education to do more to ensure schools have a medical conditions policy in place and create safer environments for children with long-term health conditions. Louise’s petition has already received 7,000 signatures, you can sign it on change.org.
Louise’s daughter, Jenny, also had issues in school when staff did not recognise the symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and made her to walk for an hour back to school grounds whilst out doing physical activities.
Louise said: “If Jenny’s school had had a medical conditions policy in place, this incident would not have happened.
"Jenny still panics a bit now if she starts to feel ill at school as she worries the staff won’t know what to do.”
Leading charity Diabetes UK, which posed the Freedom of Information request for the Alliance, has also heard directly from parents whose children are discriminated against by being excluded from activities and after school clubs because of their condition.
Some have had to sit exams without appropriate support resulting in severe effects on their social and academic development; and some parents have even gone as far as giving up work to make sure their children are safe in school.