In England, there has been a legal duty to support pupils with medical conditions in school since 2014, however this legislation does not apply in Wales. The Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill, often referred to as the ALN Bill, will establish a new statutory framework for supporting children and young people with ALN while they are at school.
The RCPCH has had long standing concerns, often highlighted by members, that the support provided in schools in Wales is variable. Although some schools provide exemplary support to children with medical conditions, and their parents, this is by no means ubiquitous. Many families across Wales who already face the daily pressures of living with a serious medical condition such as Type 1 diabetes, epilepsy or anaphylaxis have had to fight to stay safe and be fully involved in school life.
Ahead of last year's Assembly elections in Wales, alongside other stakeholders including Diabetes UK Cymru, we called for the new ALN Bill to specifically mention children with medical conditions and provide a statutory framework for schools.
The RCPCH and Diabetes UK Cymru were among the stakeholders who provided evidence from clinicians and families to the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language and members of the Children, Young People and Education Committee.
An amendment proposed by members of that Committee to include medical conditions in the Additional LearnALN Bill was backed this week by the Minister, Alun Davies. The Bill will now progress to the next stage and it is hoped that it will be supported by all AMs and quickly become law.
Dr Justin Warner, Diabetes UK Clinical Champion and RCPCH lead in this work, said:
"This is a huge, very welcome step forward for children with chronic medical conditions who need to be safe in school. All children deserve to have the very best chance of realising their potential and those with diabetes, epilepsy and other conditions should always get the support they need, wherever they live or go to school. A huge proportion of childhood is spent at school and their ability to learn and participate should never be compromised by a medical condition.
“We're grateful to the Minister for responding to our concerns, and to the members of the Children's Committee for their scrutiny on this issue and for proposing this amendment.”
Dai Williams, National Director, Diabetes UK Cymru, said:
“To succeed in school, children with Type 1 diabetes need the right support. Before this amendment, the Bill remained open to interpretation, meaning there was a risk that the variability in the system would increase.
“We are delighted that Welsh Government has taken this opportunity to reform this key piece of legislation, to ensure these children are protected. These children are already in a vulnerable position but with the right support we know they can reach their full potential and not be left behind."