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Learners with medical needs – Guidance for Inspectors – OFSTED January 2010

Recent OFSTED guidance from January 2010 notes that, “the needs of learners with chronic or long term medical conditions must be considered alongside other vulnerable groups.” It states that inspectors should “ask questions of staff and pupils to prompt schools to ensure they are doing all they can to safeguard and support this potentially vulnerable group of learners.” It also states that “Inspectors should note that in mainstream schools medical needs do not automatically equate to special educational needs.”

I applaud this document as I hope, by raising their profile, it will help those of us who are struggling to maintain continuity and quality of educational provision for this cohort of young people, We should no longer have to rely on the goodwill of individual teachers. Despite schools being required to have a policy for pupils with medical conditions and a named person since the publication of the Access to Education Document DEFS 2001, this has not always happened.

I have worked with pupils with medical needs for over 20 years, striving to help them maintain a ‘normal’ existence in schools. This has often been challenging. For a busy teacher, remembering the absent pupil who yet again has missed a lesson, is hard when trying to deal with the many differing needs of those who are present. However, for that pupil it can make a massive difference to know that he has been remembered and he has completed the same work as his class mates whilst, for example, being absent during chemotherapy sessions.

Where we have been successful, the key elements to achieving that success have been:

  • Having regular multi-agency meetings
  • Involving the pupil voice
  • Working closely with parents/carers and medical practitioners
  • Working closely with school staff and having immediate and easy access to curriculum information
  • Working closely with other professionals involved with the pupil and his family.

As with most other vulnerable pupils, children and young people with medical conditions want to fit in with their peers. Schools can help them to achieve this by developing systems which will minimise the disruption to the learners’ education and promote their health and wellbeing within the school environment.

The questions raised in the OFSTED document ‘Learners with medical needs,’ will help schools to think about what they need to do for these pupils.

Alison Boyd
Head of The Education Support Team for Medical Absence (ESTMA) Hertfordshire.

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