Schools in England will now have a legal obligation to support children with long-term conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy and asthma, education secretary Michael Gove, has announced.
The announcement was made in a written ministerial statement,in responce to concerns that some children are being excluded from a good education because of their underlying health problems. The change will be introduced as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.
Although most schools already make provisions, this will set out a clear framework of how to correctly support these conditions.
The government will work with local health and education authorities to support schools so that their staff are trained to correctly look after children with long-term health conditions. This will include putting appropriate policies in place and creating individual care plans. There will also be advice on storing medicines and emergency procedures.
Statutory guidance will be issued next year to ensure these expectations are met.
Dave Munday, a professional officer from Unite CPHVA, has said these changes will be beneficial if they are properly supported and more school nurses are recruited to implement these changes.
'Wanting to support children is always a good thing, but there needs to be more recognition to support school nurses with these changes and to rapidly increase their numbers.
'School nurses should currently be able to provide this support, but schools need to have better relationships with their nurses.'
Mr Gove's announcement follows months of campaigning by a number of charities.
Diabetes UK has called the government's intervention a 'major step' but has warned that while it has the potential to make a huge difference for children with long-term health conditions, this will only happen if it is supported by clear and appropriate statutory guidance, that will help schools understand what they need to do and how to do it.
This follows the government's intention to consult on the recommendation that schools should be allowed to keep a spare inhaler and spacer device for emergencies when children don't have their own inhalers.