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Getting schools on board

For CLDF’s children and families officer, Kate, concerns about education come high on the list of issues she helps parents with.

Having a child who is chronically ill is stressful in itself and worries about their education add to that stress. The parents I speak to often feel very torn. On one hand they want their children to be in school. It’s best for their mental health and gives them a feeling of normality and belonging. On the other hand, there is a need to protect them and do what’s best for their physical health.

Children with a liver condition have more time off school than healthy children in any case, whether it is due to them being ill, attending medical appointments or being kept away from school because there is a bug or virus going around to which they are particularly susceptible (particularly the case for those children who are immunosupressed). This issue existing long before COVID-19 has certainly made the situation worse.

The reaction from schools to this varies widely. Some are brilliantly supportive. With others the response is almost punitive. As soon as a number of absences are recorded, an unauthorised absence letter is sent out, which is upsetting for a parent who really would rather their child was at school. In situations like this, I get involved and speak up for the family.

It’s not just parents who become stressed by this. Children who have been away from school may feel anxious about the impact of returning on their health, particularly in this post-Covid era.

We are very conscious that schools are under real pressure at the moment, but the good news is that it really does not take a great deal of time to get this right. Examples of best practice which has delivered real results are:

  • Teachers who receive our education pack and then call us to ask any questions. We regularly set up a three-way call with the school and parent which makes all parties feel better prepared
  • Class teachers who check in with a pupil who is having to learn at home once a week just to see how they are doing. Schools are getting much better at setting up online learning but a ten-minute call once a week can go a long way to ensuring that a young person still feels a part of their school community
  • Staff having a chat with a parent or pupil to find out what would reduce a parent’s or young person’s anxiety. This could be as simple as being able to leave a lesson a couple of minutes before everyone else so that they can walk to their next class in a corridor which isn’t crowded
  • Schools who consider the impact on siblings. Covid regulations have led to well children having enforced absences to protect a vulnerable child. We also know that many siblings become very anxious about their brother or sister’s wellbeing at school, so some acknowledgement of their feelings goes a long way.

We are always here to support parents who have concerns about education and our experience has shown that with clear communication on all sides, we can find a way through. Sometimes just half an hour is all it takes to make a huge difference.

If you have concerns about your child’s education or would like a copy of our education pack to give to your child’s school contact us at

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