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Primary and secondary education

Primary and secondary education

M.E. affects an estimated one in every 100 secondary school children in the UK aged between 11 and 16 years, from all social classes and ethnic groups and is the biggest cause of long-term health related school absence. The average age of young people with M.E. is 13, however, affects all age groups.

Teaching and supporting a child with this complex condition can be challenging. However, the outlook for young people with M.E. is good and many go on to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Support for young people with M.E. is vital, many that we have spoken to have reported their desire for a teacher that understands their condition, and works with them to manage their education.

Accepting the limitations of M.E. and working within the boundaries of your student's condition will help your pupil and their family cope with the demands imposed by M.E.

It’s important to remember that children may struggle to keep up with school work and their attendance may fluctuate. Supporting students by taking the time to research and understand their condition and making appropriate adjustments in school could potentially help students feel more confident in returning to school, when their health allows.

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What to expect

In December 2018, Action for M.E. asked young people with M.E. what they would like their teachers to know about their condition, their comments included:

  • “That I can’t always answer questions in class due to brain fog and my homework might not always be done on time. In order for accuracy I need longer so I don’t tire out.”
  • “I'm in constant pain; that two hours of school requires two days of bedrest; that studying at home can be completely impossible.”
  • “I would want my teacher to understand that I did truly want to learn and be at school and that I would of loved more support from both my class teachers and my guidance counsellor. I found the smallest things a struggle and my concentration and memory are poor because of my M.E.”

Children with M.E. may have special educational needs and teachers must take reasonable steps to ensure that they are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to others. By introducing simple support structures into the student's routine, students will feel more enabled in continuing or resuming education when their health allows. These could include things such as regular breaks, reduced hours and quiet rooms where they can rest.

It is good practice for children with a long-term medical conditions such as M.E. to have an individual education programme drawn up in collaboration with their school, local education authority, and their parents.

Some children may only be able to attend school part-time and others may need to be away from school for longer. The child’s GP, paediatrician or specialist will usually need to write to the school and offer guidance on what is a suitable level of attendance them, or if they feel a home tutor would be better at this stage in your pupil’s condition. Communication at this stage is incredibly important, talk with your student and their family to gage their needs, potential adjustmends and how you can support them.