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Advice for parents in Scotland

My child is missing school due to ill health

Missing a lot of school because of ill-health can have a big impact not only on your child’s education, but also on how they feel about school. It can affect their sense of self and self-confidence and make them feel socially isolated, sometimes making them feel nervous about returning to school.

If your child is missing school because they are unwell they have the right to continue learning while they are off. If you child is seriously ill they may not be able to learn during treatment or recovery, but in most cases children will benefit from some education while they are off school.

The right to continue learning applies if your child misses one long period of school or lots of shorter periods of time. It applies if your child is off school because of:

  • an accident or trauma
  • mental health issues
  • chronic long-term, life-limiting or life-shortening conditions
  • health conditions that mean a lot of time spent in hospital.

NB: It does not apply to children with common childhood illnesses (such as a cold or chickenpox) who would be expected to be back at school quickly.

If your child is likely to be off school for more than 5 days, then being provided with education should start immediately after this. If it’s not clear how long they will be off, education should start as soon as possible. It should be in place after 15 days off in a row, or after 20 days of frequent absences.

There are different ways education might be arranged for your child while they are off school. It could be provided at your home, or in the place they are spending most of their time - such as a hospital or hospice.

Your child should be offered a broad and full curriculum that builds on what they have already been learning. It should be suitable for their state of health and for where they are learning. Whoever is providing the education should work with you and any health professionals involved to develop a learning programme that will meet your child’s needs. It’s important your child’s views are listened to when planning their learning out of school.

Your child’s school may take the lead by arranging for work to be sent to your child. The school might also work with staff from the local authority to make arrangements. Some local authorities have an outreach, interrupted learners’ or hospital education team who might help support your child's learning.

If your child cannot go to school because of anxiety, it’s important to talk to their class or guidance teacher and ask for support. You could also raise concerns with your child’s GP and discuss whether your child would benefit from support from any other services, such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). If needed, your GP may be able to provide a note for the school to explain the reason for your child’s absences.

If your child’s anxiety is making them unable or unwilling to attend school they have the same right to continue learning while they are off as other pupils.

You can:

- contact the school and let them know the reason your child is or will be off school and how long they are expected to be off for.
- arrange to talk to the head teacher or a senior teacher about what support and educational arrangements can be offered to your child while they are off school.
- ask the health professionals involved with your child (such as your GP) to write to the school to explain the impact their illness will have when your child returns to school.

Possible conversations starters when your child is off school:

- Who will be providing education for my child when they are not in school?
- What arrangements will be put in place for work being sent to my child, and for them to send their work back to school?
- Can we talk about the support my child might need to help them back to school?
- Will the school be able to support my child and his friends pick up their friendships again?

Possible conversation starters when your child returns to school:

- How will support be arranged to meet my child’s ongoing needs?
- How can we monitor the impact my child missing so much school has had on their progress?
- Is there a buddy system available to help my child feel included with his classmates?

Contact the Enquire Helpline on 0345 123 2303

Our helpline is closed today. We're open 9.30am-4.30pm Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. You can also visit our Contact page to get in touch by email.


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