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.”