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Consultation on helping Kent children who miss school due to illness

County Council launches consultation on its proposed new policy to support children and young people who miss school due to health and medical needs.

Earlier this year, the government announced a new national framework to ensure children attend school following concerns about rising rates of persistent absence in the years since lockdown.

white table with black chairs

Photo by MChe Lee

According to official figures, in the year 2022-2023, some 1.6m million pupils in England were persistently absent from school, some 21.2% of the whole school-age population. For more, see House of Commons Library: School attendance in England, May 17, 2024.

Under the new system which comes into force this August, where a child misses school for more than 10 ‘sessions’ (that is, five days) for no authorised reason, the school should consider fining the parents. Fines are set at £80 if paid within 21 days or £160 is paid within £160 days.

The new guidelines also acknowledge that there may be good reasons why children and young people are not able to attend school – and local authorities are encouraged to be proactive in addressing barriers to attendance. One barrier is ill health, which the new guidance specifically addresses.

That’s the context in which Kent County Council has launched a consultation on its proposed new policy to support children and young people who miss school owing to their health or medical needs. The aim is to provide clarity on the responsibilities and arrangements involved where a pupil is absent (or due to be absent) from school for 15 days or more in an academic year. Those 15 days can be either consecutive or cumulative.

The council and schools in the region can provide reasonable adjustments and enhanced support to pupils affected by such illness to ensure their educational needs continue to be met. This might include access to external agencies or support from a specialist education provider.

It is keen to hear views on its draft proposals and a consultation is open until July 28.

Sarah Hammond, Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, at Kent County Council, says: ‘Schools remain the best and most appropriate agent for delivering a child or young person’s education and wider social development but we know attendance can be impacted by ill-health factors.

‘We are now ready to ask for the views of children, young people and their parents or carers on how we propose to bring all stakeholders together to support Kent’s pupils who suffer from ill-health or who have medical needs. We want to hear what people think of our proposed policy so we can make sure it is right before it is agreed.’

In related news:

Carers Week: 60% of ‘hidden carers’ are struggling with their mental health

‘This is My Life’ report from Disabled Children’s Partnership

Care experienced children urge authorities to back social care reforms

Simon Guerrier
Writer and journalist for Social Care Today, Infotec and Air Quality News

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