The extent to which arthritis affects everyday life at school will vary from child to child and from day to day. Building up a good relationship with the school and childs teacher is key. Communication between parents, teachers and the child is very important.
This is probably the first time the teacher will have come across a child with arthritis so give them as much information as possible about the condition. Useful links below. The first step is to arrange an initial meeting between parents and staff to talk about the diagnosis and information about how the condition affects the child daily. Then at the beginning of each new school year ask for a meeting with the child’s new teacher. Information should be passed on but don’t presume that it will.
In September 2014 a new duty came into force in schools to support pupils with medical conditions. – Children and Families Act 2014 – which applies to England only.
Children and young people with medical conditions are entitled to a full education and have the same rights of admission to school as other children. The governing body must ensure that arrangements are in place to ensure that such children can access and enjoy the same opportunities at school as any other child.
Every school and Pre-School/Nursery provision will have a staff member allocated as a SENCO who is responsible for coordinating the child’s support programme. At the initial meeting with school ask if the SENCO can be present at the meeting with the class teacher.
As a result of the initial meeting with school a medical or care plan should be put together which would then be reviewed regularly with parents, teaching staff and the child themselves. This would detail information about the child’s condition and include medication they are on and medical professionals they are under. Schools will offer different levels of support based on the specific needs of a child. It may be informal monitoring of the child’s progress by the class teacher or it may include more formal support eg: visits from an Occupational Therapist to advise and support school staff. This is now known as special educational needs support from school SENCO.
If all strategies put in place are not successfully supporting the child’s educational progress then schools would work with outside agencies to put together a specific Education, Health and Care Plan (previously known as a Statement), a legal document which outlines a child’s needs and how these needs might be met.
Make sure that school knows when the child is attending medical appointments and what they are for. Parents or the child should make sure the teacher is aware that on some days the child will feel more tired, stiff or unwell than usual and the school day may need to be adjusted accordingly. Staff need to be aware about the child’s access to PE lessons or be aware that they may struggle with handwriting.
Talking to their teacher and friends about arthritis can help them to understand why some days are fine and others are difficult. Absences from school can mean that the JIA child misses out on the social side of school, therefore its important for them to have special friends who understand and keep in touch with them out of school too.
Other help and advice
Information, Advice and Support Service:
IAS Services (previously National Parent Partnership Network)
Education Advisors Freephone Helpline 0808 808 3555
IPSEA advice line: 0800 018 4016 or