Education scandal of our sick children

STEVE DOWNES Norfolk's hospital and education chiefs are under fire for failing to provide a decent education for children too ill to go to school.A shocking new report highlights how children are being let down, including those with illnesses like cancer, cystic fibrosis and ME.

STEVE DOWNES

Norfolk's hospital and education chiefs are under fire for failing to provide a decent education for children too ill to go to school.

A shocking new report highlights how children are being let down, including those with illnesses like cancer, cystic fibrosis and ME. Many are not receiving the government-prescribed minimum five hours' education a week. Others are getting no education at all.

Last night, councillors said the issue raised the question of whether Norfolk was living up to its bold claim that “every child matters” - the guiding principle behind a recent overhaul which saw all services for children and young people brought together.


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The report of the scrutiny working group was unveiled yesterday at Norfolk County Council's children's services review panel. It revealed most of the county's schools had no policy or designated teacher to meet the needs of sick children, while two of the county's three main hospitals had no “dedicated teaching resource”.

Problems unearthed included:

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Failed computer equipment

A school that did not recognise the chronic fatigue condition ME

Inconsistent provision at schools, with education for sick children sometimes dependent on the goodwill of individual teachers

Lack of information about out-of-school education, with parents finding out about it by chance.

Harriet Panting, who chaired the working group, said: “Steps must be taken to achieve our vision and ensure every child in Norfolk really does matter. Some families are suffering more than they need to at a very difficult time.”

Before the meeting, she said: “This could happen to any family at any time and I don't think provision is good enough. There definitely isn't enough provision in the hospitals. There's good practice at the primary age group because teachers there generally know each individual child. They can send individual work home. But at high school, the provision is much more varied.”

Fellow Labour councillor John Holmes said: “This is an indictment of what we are doing for young people in hospital. This sort of help is absolutely crucial, particularly if children are going through exams or Sats.”

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital was praised for improving its provision but the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, had “no dedicated teaching resource”.

The two hospitals said they only catered for a very small number of children with medical needs and a child's stay was normally short.

The report, which acknowledged that out-of-school education provided by the county council's pupil referral units and visiting teacher service was good, included interviews with 20 sick children and their parents.

The report suggested a number of measures, including a review of education at the James Paget and Queen Elizabeth hospitals, guidance being sent to schools on the provision of education for sick children and more information to be made available to parents to inform them of the provision and their rights.

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