Department for Education update to guidance on Arranging education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs

16 April 2024

Department for Education update to guidance on Arranging education for children who cannot attend school because of health needs

We are a proud member of the HCSA (health conditions in schools alliance) and work with them regularly to improve support for people living with JIA in schools. The government has issued Statutory Guidance supporting arranging educational provision for children who are unable to attend school due to their health care needs. 

If your child of compulsory school age is unable to attend school, as a result of their JIA, or any other health condition, the local authority must arrange for appropriate full-time education (or as much education as the child’s health allows). This guidance relates to local authorities statutory duties under Section 19 of the Education Act 1996. Although there is no statutory timeframe, the local authority should attempt to arrange this as soon as it is clear that the child will be absent from school for more than 15 school days (consecutively or cumulatively). For long term medical conditions, education can be provided at home or at hospital. The local authority should have a named officer who is responsible for the education of children with additional health needs and their details should be made known to the parent.

All students of compulsory school age have the right to a full-time education. A child can be placed on a temporary part-time timetable in exceptional circumstances, such as when a medical condition prevents full-time attendance. This cannot be a long-term solution, and it must be clear when the part-time timetable will end. Absences from school as part of the part-time timetable must be considered authorised. The legal duty does not apply to children and young people under and over compulsory school age. However, local authorities and schools should have clear policies in place to support these children and young people to access education and should follow the principles, set out in the guidance as good practice.

This guidance applies whether the child or young person is on a school roll or not and all children, regardless of circumstance or setting, should expect to receive the same high standard of education. The alternative provision must be suitable to the child’s age, ability and aptitude, and any special educational needs they have, inclusive of any educational healthcare plans or individual healthcare plans. 

Crucially, the guidance stipulates that the provision of a part-time timetable must not be used as a disciplinary measure.