What should happen if my child has a medical condition and needs extra support in order to attend school?

The school’s duty to support pupils with medical conditions

Under section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014, schools, Academies and PRUs “must make arrangements for supporting pupils at the school with medical conditions”. This duty is owed by the “appropriate authority” which is either the governing body (of a maintained school) or the proprietor (if it is an Academy).

The Government has published statutory guidance called “Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions” to explain to schools, parents and carers how this duty should be carried out.

The guidance expressly states that schools must ensure that arrangements are in place to support pupils with medical needs so that they can access and enjoy the same opportunities at school as any other child, and must reintegrate children back into school after absences arising because of their medical conditions (paragraph 6).

The school should agree an individual healthcare plan with you. This will set out how your child’s health needs will be met, including when and by whom, and whether any staff training is needed.

The school must also have a written policy regarding pupils with medical conditions and how they will be supported. This should be available on the school website or on request.

The school’s duties relating to disability

If your child’s medical condition amounts to a disability, the school also has duties under the Equality Act 2010 to make arrangements to ensure that he or she can access education without significant disadvantage. Click here for more information.

What happens if my child is unable to attend school for any period due to a medical condition?

The local authority’s duty to provide suitable alternative education

The LA has a legal duty to secure suitable, full-time alternative education for those children of compulsory school age who, by reason of illness, exclusion or otherwise, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them (section 19, Education Act 1996).

Details of how to get temporary education put in place may be found here.

Local authorities should have regard to the statutory guidance entitled: ‘Ensuring a good education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs’.

You’ll see from the guidance (page 8, paragraphs 12-13) that supporting medical evidence will be required. The LA may expect this to come from a consultant, but they should ‘work closely with medical professionals and the child’s family, and consider the medical evidence’. In the short term at least, this could be from a GP.

It also states (paragraphs 14-15) that LAs should provide such education as soon as it is clear that the child will be away from school for 15 days or more, whether consecutive or cumulative, and should do so at the latest by the sixth day of the absence. They should liaise with appropriate medical professionals to ensure minimal delay in arranging appropriate provision for the child.

“Full-time education” is not defined in law, and LAs will often only offer a few hours of home tuition per week. However, the guidance states (at the bottom of page 4) that it should ‘equate to what the pupil would normally have in school – for example, for pupils in Key Stage 4 this would usually be 25 hours a week.’

It is unlawful to withhold or reduce the provision, or type of provision, for a child because of how much it will cost. Therefore, LAs must not have policies that limit a child’s education to a specified number of hours per week due to cost or availability.