We recently had the chance to sit down with a professional who is an expert in the inclusion of students with complex medical needs in schools. Her role is based in the community, helping to provide specialist training and staff to both mainstream and special school settings, so that children with complex medical needs can access education safely, and with the right support.
1. What is inclusive education when referring to those with complex medical needs?
To me, its that medical needs should never be barrier to education. Every student has the right to learn, whether that be in a mainstream or specialist setting. My role is about supporting that setting to enable the safe integration of a child into school. It is also about supporting the family throughout this placement, because understandably, it can be very daunting for families to trust that their child is safe in school. Some of the children I work with have never been in school before they are referred to us, due to not previously being able to access settings with the right equipment or correctly trained medical staff.
2. Who could be involved in the support that a child might be eligible for?
First and foremost, the child is always at the centre of these discussions. Our relationship with the families is also pivotal to identifying the correct support that a child needs to be safely in school. Once a child is referred to us, the local authority would have already been responsible for identifying the appropriate setting for that child. Then, family services will create an individualized educational healthcare plan (EHCP) for some students. After this, relevant clinicians, and professionals such as the school SENCO, the class teacher and allocated support staff will all play important roles in identifying and facilitating the support that the child needs.
3. Do all your students have an EHCP then?
Interestingly enough, in my very specific role which focuses solely on those with medical needs, not all students accessing these services will have an EHCP. This is because those with medical needs do not necessarily have special educational needs as well. For example, a child who requires long term oxygen, which requires specialist training to administer and monitor, might be functioning academically at the same level as their peers. But all the students will have an individualized school healthcare plan.
4. What is an inclusive school, when referring to medical needs?
In my opinion, an inclusive school is one that doesn’t see any of the health issues that a child might have as barriers to education. They will be creative and proactive when facilitating a child’s placement in school. They put the student’s education at the centre of their conversations, and rather than focusing on the obstacles, they focus on the solutions, with a ‘can do’ attitude towards getting every child into school.
5. So how can inclusion benefit both the child you are placing and the students in that setting?
When we talk about inclusion for those with complex medical needs, the benefits are plentiful, they are accessing education safely, and being able to integrate with their peers. But we don’t often talk about the benefits that this also has for the students in the setting they are placed in. For example, inclusion of those with medical needs in mainstream settings actually allows student to experience first-hand that we are not all the same, it takes the anxiety out of the notion that some people have different needs to others.
I once worked with a child who had a dual placement, meaning they were in a special school for the majority of their education, but attended a mainstream setting 1 day a week. This had benefits to both the child themselves, and the students in the mainstream setting. It was so important to the students to be exposed to this great example of inclusion; on sports day they even sacrificed their own ‘rounders’ on the pitch to ensure that the child felt included and involved in the day. It was absolutely lovely to see.
6. Ah that’s a great story! So, where might a school access the right support and training to facilitate inclusion of those with complex medical needs?
This is a question that we get asked by schools all the time. Here is a list of some of the services that a school might access to support children with medical needs in schools
- ‘3 in 1’ training from school nursing
- Community children’s nursing team
- Specialist nurses and therapists
- Specialist learning support team
- Dietetic services.
7. What advice can you give to teachers to make their classes inclusive if they have any students with any type of health need?
My advice would be to reach out and access the services that are on offer to you, they are out there and ready to help you learn, train and staff your classes in the best way to support a child with health needs. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, learning and increasing our knowledge is the best and most easy way we can support these students indirectly. And finally, talk to your students about inclusion!
About Breakthrough in Education
Breakthrough in Education is a specialist SEN recruitment company placing teachers , TA’s and senior staff in all school settings. We aim to impact on the growth of children and young people, their families and their futures by providing staffing solutions to...