The government has confirmed that schools in England will now have a legal obligation to support children with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, epilepsy and asthma. A written statement from Education Secretary Michael Gove announced plans to introduce a “clear requirement on all types of state schools”.
Schools will have to take “reasonable action” to provide extra support. Campaign group Diabetes UK welcomed the announcement as a “major step” that could affect a million children.
The announcement, in a written ministerial statement, responds to concerns that some children are being excluded from a good education because of their underlying health problems. It aims to clarify the rights of families concerned about how their children’s health problems might affect their education.
Asthma UK says that on average there are two children in every class with asthma.
“Whilst a vast majority of schools take these issues seriously, it is clear some families have had poor experiences,” says the statement from Mr Gove. “This new duty, underpinned by statutory guidance, will help schools to ensure that they are taking reasonable action to support children with medical conditions, where necessary.”
The change will be introduced as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill. The proposals say that although most schools already make provisions, this will set out a clear framework of expectations. This could include making an individual plan for a pupil. There will also be advice on storing medicines and emergency procedures.
A statement from Diabetes UK says that while many schools provide excellent additional support, there are examples where children are “effectively excluded from fully participating in their education and hindered in meeting their full academic potential”.
Caroline Moore, the charity’s director for planning and support services, said the announcement “has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of around a million children”.
Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said: “We can’t overstate the importance of the government putting a duty on schools to support children with medical conditions. On average, two children in every classroom in the UK are living with asthma and just a quarter of teachers say they would feel completely confident knowing what to do if a pupil had an asthma attack. This is putting children’s lives at risk on a daily basis and needs to be urgently addressed by introducing individual care plans and training for teachers on implementing them as part of a medical conditions policy for every school.”