Lots of pupils have healthcare needs that mean they need some extra help or support at school. It may be because they are ill for a short period of time, have a medical condition that needs on-going management, they may need emergency treatment, or have medical difficulties related to going to the toilet.
Children with healthcare needs have the same right as other children to get additional support with their learning if they need it. Most children with healthcare needs are able to continue to attend school regularly with the right practical and emotional support.
Under the Additional Support for Learning Act, local authorities must identify the additional support needs of children whose education they are responsible for, and plan and provide "adequate and efficient" support to make sure their needs are met.
Other "appropriate agencies" such as NHS boards must by law help local authorities meet their duties under the Act if they are asked to. NHS Boards must respond to a request for help unless the request conflicts with their own role or legal duties. But if a request for help is refused, it is up to the local authority to make arrangements for support to be put in place either through negotiation with NHS Board or by providing the support themselves.
The head teacher of your child's school, in partnership with the local authority and NHS Board, is responsible for making sure your child has the support they need in school.
Children with healthcare needs may need a package of additional support to help them get the most from school. Depending on your child's health issues, the support they need in school might include:
- help to take medication
- help to manage a chronic condition
- a quiet place to rest during the school day
- extra time to finish work
- help to use the toilet or perform a medical procedure
Support may also be needed to avoid emergencies (such as allergic reactions) or to react quickly and suitably if one occurs.
The law does not say what type or level of support children should receive but sets in place the framework to make sure their needs are met.
Guidance to help schools, local authorities and NHS Boards to support children with healthcare needs states that "the rights, wellbeing, needs and circumstances of the individual child should, at all times, be at the heart of decisions-making".
Visit the "How will my child's learning and support be planned" section for more information on learning plans.
Your school should have a policy outlining the arrangements for supporting children who need to take medication.
The school should discuss with you the best arrangements for them to receive, store and administer medicine for your child. They should ask you for written consent to give your child medicine.
The school must have a named person of staff responsible for making sure your child takes their medication and overseeing its storage. Two adults should be present to check the correct dosage is given.
If medication is stored at school, all school staff should know how to access it for your child. You should keep the school up-to-date with any changes to your child's medication, dosage, etc.
It's helpful to tell your child's school about any side effects your child may experience so they can provide support if needed.
School staff should always contact you or a suitable health professional if they have any doubts about giving medication to your child.
If your child has medical needs that mean they need intimate care (such as help with toileting or to perform a medical procedure), in most cases schools will manage this internally through staff members volunteering to support them. The staff member supporting your child should be somebody they know and trust. Staff helping a child with intimate care needs should be trained and children should be treated with dignity.
If the school isn’t able to identify someone to help, they should work with the local NHS Board to find a solution. If your child isn’t able to attend school while arrangements are made, the school will need to make sure that they don’t miss out on their education. You can find more information about this in the ‘Missing school due to ill health’ section of our website, and in our When a child can’t go to school factsheet.
If you're worried your child has additional support needs, including health needs, then you can ask for your child to be assessed. You (or your child if they are aged 12 or over) can ask your local authority for a specific assessment including a health assessment. You can do this by putting your request in writing to the local authority.
Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must make reasonable adjustments to make sure that disabled pupils can fully participate in their education and benefit from all the services and facilities a school offers. Depending on their needs, children with longer-term health conditions may be considered as 'disabled'. In some cases providing intimate care or making arrangements for medication to be given might be considered reasonable adjustments. The Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) can provide advice about whether not doing this might be considered discrimination.
If you have concerns about the support your child is receiving, talk to the person responsible for additional support for learning in the school. This could be the head teacher or the head of learning support. If you are not satisfied with the way the school has dealt with your concerns, you can make a formal complaint in writing to the head teacher. If you have raised your complaint with the head teacher and still have concerns, you can contact the additional support for learning officer at your local authority. You can find the person to speak to in your local authority on the local authority section of this website.
The section of our website "How can I resolve disagreements with the school or local authority?" explains other routes to resolving disputes. (see link below).
If your child is unable to attend school because they are unwell, they still have a right to an education, and the school should make alternative arrangements so that they can continue to learn. More information about this can be found in the ‘My child is missing school due to ill health’ section of our website.
- ask for a meeting with a teacher at the school and any health professionals working with your child if you think their health needs are not being met
- share examples of where you think their needs are not being met
- ask for a review of their health and/or educational plan if they have one
- ask that a health or learning plan is set up if they don’t already have a written plan.
Possible conversation starters
- Could we discuss the help my child needs to go to the toilet? Twice last week there was not a member of staff available to help.
- Some staff don’t seem to know about my child health needs. How can we make sure all the staff understand her needs?