A huge thank you must be shared with our keynote speakers, our workshop facilitators and to our delegates whose participation and willingness to contribute made the day a huge success. For colleagues who were unable to attend we have summarised the fundamental points from each keynote speaker.
School and academies’ responsibility to have a policy in place
Ann Sullivan reminded all delegates that schools and academies must have policies in place to ensure pupils with medical conditions can access education. Health plans for children and young people detail how individual needs are to be met and how pupils will be supported. Managing illness and medical needs well supports school attendance as parents are confident that their child will be cared for.
Schools have statutory duties to make reasonable adjustments to enable access for pupils, not putting disabled people at a disadvantage. Failure to do so is discrimination. However, if health plans are written correctly, with support from health professionals where appropriate and the needs of the parent and pupil are taken into consideration, schools are best placed to improve access to education and encourage regular attendance and improved outcomes for children and young people.
Dr Juliet Court gave a fascinating insight into fabricated illness and the key factors in identifying perpetrators, their motivation and the effects on children and young people. Fabricated illness is not just a medical issue, a multi-agency response is needed to offer support to parents and pupils.
Schools may be in the best place to identify concerns or may be asked to contribute to information gathering and assessment. It is essential, therefore, that schools record all communication with the child and family accurately and in detail. Dr Court informed delegates that it is important not to confront a carer who is suspected of fabricating illness directly, as this could put the child at risk of significant harm.
All concerns should be managed by a senior staff member. Sadly there are poor outcomes for pupils as a result of fabricated illness and, therefore, schools play a vital role in recognising the signs at an early stage. Absence from school should be followed up and concerns should be detailed.
Margaret Cuffwright, Specialist Health Visitor for Paediatric Asthma, informed the conference that asthma is not a reason to be absent from school. The key to good attendance is good asthma management and even if pupils struggle at night-time, they should be able to be in school the next day, if a little late on occasion.
Asthma attacks are preventable, yet 7500 children in the North West get admitted to hospital every year, mainly because many pupils do not have their reliever inhaler with them in school and may not be using them correctly.
Educating pupils on how to use preventative inhalers can also reduce asthma attacks, particular in the winter months when viral infections are more prevalent. This is why it is essential that children attend asthma clinics and keep appointments for appropriate reviews. This is a key message to share with parents.
Early identification of mental health
Lyndsay Schaffer, Lead CAMHS practitioner gave a powerful speech about mental health concerns in children and young people.
Every six minutes a child is counselled by ChildLine about mental health related concerns. The top three reasons are low self-esteem, self-harm & suicidal thoughts. The facts speak for themselves in that one in ten children and young people, aged 5 – 16, suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, which is around three children in every class. Mental health issues continue to be a difficult subject to talk about. Three in four young people with mental health problems fear the reaction from friends and family.
Talking about our mental health should be as common and ordinary as talking about our physical health. The role that schools play in promoting the resilience of their pupils is important, particularly so for some children where their home life is less supportive. School should be a safe affirming place for children where they can develop a sense of belonging and feel able to trust and talk openly with adults about their problems. Having a sense of belonging to school is a recognised protective factor for mental health and good attendance strengthens this relationship and bond with school.
Feedback from our conference is really positive and we enjoyed the opportunity to network with colleagues and showcase some of our expertise around improving school attendance in the workshop delivered by the school attendance advisers.
Please contact One Education Attendance for more information about this offer, or any of our popular products detailed at the conference such as the Attendance Assessment or Education Welfare Support.
We are looking forward to next year!