Low grade education policies failing children and young people with cancer

Children and young people with cancer too ill to attend school risk facing a postcode lottery which could deny them a proper education, a Freedom of Information request by CLIC Sargent has revealed.

One in four local authorities in England failed to score any points at all against criteria based on Department for Education guidance for suitable educational provision for children and young people with health needs. This includes an early assessment of pupil needs and regular monitoring of progress.

Provision around the country is patchy, with children and young people with cancer in some areas finding it difficult to access the home tuition they are entitled to.

Local authorities have a legal duty under the Education Act 1996  to provide ‘suitable education’ for children who cannot attend school because of medical conditions. 

There is also statutory guidance, strengthened by the Department of Education in January this year, that requires local authorities to provide and publish a detailed policy of their educational provision for children and young people who are absent from school because of their medical needs, including the standards, procedures and responsibilities they make for those pupils.

Only seven per cent of local authorities scored top marks, and also had excellent policies. Camden and Dorset stood out, followed by West Sussex, Sunderland, Leicester and Bedford. 60% of the authorities surveyed scored less than half against all the criteria, which included essential and desirable practice.

In December 2012 and July 2013, CLIC Sargent published two reports into educational provision for children and young people with cancer, No child with cancer left out, and No teenager with cancer left out.

302 children, young people and their families were interviewed for the reports, which found examples of good practice, but also gaps in provision.

140 of the 152 local authorities in England responded to CLIC Sargent’s FOI request for information about their education policy for children and young people with cancer at the start of this year.

CLIC Sargent Trustee and former Director of Children’s Services for Westminster City Council, Michael O’Connor said: “Some local authorities have an excellent approach in place, but it’s vital every child and young person who cannot attend school because they have cancer has access to good quality education to help them maximise their potential, wherever they live.

“That’s why we want to work with local authorities and other colleagues supporting the education of children and young people with cancer to share the best practice that does exist and ask local authorities to review their approach so that it meets the needs of every child and young person with cancer in the future.

“CLIC Sargent proposed an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which is going through Parliament now, to strengthen the definition of suitable education and welcomes the Government’s response which states it will ‘continue to work with organisations such as CLIC Sargent to ensure that statutory guidance on alternative provision supports the needs of all pupils’.

“It is vital that all children and young people, regardless of circumstances, receive the quality of education they deserve. Local authorities need to make sure that their policies reflect the need for this, and at the moment, not enough of them are doing that.”

We have real life stories available for interview. For more information, an interview or images please contact Sue Royal on 020 8752 2833/07771830960 or email sue.royal@clicsargent.org.uk. Outside office hours please call 08448 481189.

Key figures from the audit:

  • Seven LAs (5%) noted that they were in the process of revising or redrafting their policies in the light  of the new guidance.
  • 26%  scored zero out of seven on the essential criteria
  • One in four failed to score any points against the essential criteria
  • 7% scored seven out of seven on the essential criteria
  • Less than one in ten scored 100% against the criteria
  • Half scored three or less out of seven
  • 32% scored 0 out of five on the desirable criteria
  • One third failed to score any points against the desirable criteria
  • 2% scored five out of five on the desirable criteria
  • Only 2% fulfilled all the criteria
  • 60% scored two or less out of five
  • Three in five scored less than half
  • 25% scored 0 out of 12 on the total criteria
  • A quarter of local authorities failed to score against any of the criteria
  • 1% scored 12 out of 12 on the total criteria
  • Only two local authorities scored 100% against the total criteria
  • 58% scored six or less
  • Over half scored less than 50%

About childhood cancer
Every day, 10 children and young people in the UK hear the shocking news they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.

About CLIC Sargent
CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families. We provide clinical, practical and emotional support to help them cope with cancer and get the most out of life. For more information visit www.clicsargent.org.uk

Note to sub editors
Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.   

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