Children and parents should not be penalised if a pupil’s absence from school is related to their health condition. Parents should follow the school’s attendance procedures for notifying absence.
Schools rightly place importance on attendance. However, some schools’ attendance policies penalise poor attendance and this can be devastating to pupils with medical conditions who have really tried to be in school despite the challenges of their disease. Examples include being denied study leave for exams or access to very special events like a leavers’ prom. The statutory guidance makes clear these types of policies are unacceptable and discriminate against children with health conditions.
As soon as it is clear that a child will be away from school for 15 days or more, whether consecutive or cumulative, the local authority is under a duty to ensure a pupil receives as normal an education as possible. The local authority should liaise with appropriate medical professionals to ensure minimal delay in arranging appropriate provision for the child. A full-time education should be provided unless the child’s health needs mean a part-time education is more appropriate.
When absences are under, or likely to be under, 15 days, many children still want to keep up with key subjects, particularly if they are well and at home during an outbreak of infectious disease. Providing children with some work to do at home helps them keep up with the rest of the class. Sending work by email via parents allows the school, child and parent to work out what can be managed.
Children with IBD often find their symptoms are at the worst in the morning, so flexibility should be allowed if children are frequently late for school. Most families would like children to start the school day as soon as they are able and not wait until break times to join their class.
consider a reduced timetable
Adjustments will depend on the severity of a pupil’s IBD, but might include a reduced timetable, dropping some exam subjects and avoiding PE. These types of adjustments result in a reduction in stress and an improvement in attendance.
If they feel well enough most young people want to be included in all the normal activities of school including sport, trips and special occasions. Sometimes a bit of forward planning is needed: for example, considering dietary needs if an activity includes food or cooking.
Schools cannot exclude children from school trips on the basis of medical conditions, nor can they require parents to accompany them. Children should be allowed to participate fully in out-of-school activities, if they feel well enough, and their specific needs should be considered as part of the normal risk assessment for school trips.