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How can schools help support a child with M.E.?

This page offers information for parents, teachers and other education professionals.

There a number of ways that schools can make reasonable adjustments to support a child with M.E. If you feel like you need further information and support about this, please get in touch.

A number of organisations have collaborated to design Supporting children with medical needs, a flowchart that aims to schools identify the steps they should take to make sure that children with medical needs receive the right support. Parents may find it helpful to share this with their child's school.

It's also useful to know that, according to the NICE guideline for M.E., healthcare professionals should:

  • follow the guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families on education for children and young people with medical needs, or equivalent statutory guidance.
  •  work closely with social care and education services to ensure a common understanding of the goals of the person with M.E. The use of a flexible approach should be discussed, including home tuition and use of equipment that allows a gradual reintegration into education.
  • not use time in education as a sole marker of progress of M.E. Additionally, education should not be the only activity a person undertakes. There should be a balance between time spent attending school or college and doing homework, and time spent on home and social activities.

Support plans

Individual Healthcare Plans can help schools to effectively support pupils who have M.E. so that they can attend school for as long as their medical condition allows. Individual Healthcare Plans are compiled by school professionals in consultation with health professionals, parents/carers and the child/young person. Parents can request one from their child’s school.

For young people up to age 25, an Education, Health and Care Plan can be put in place. This is for those who need more support than what's available through special educational needs support. Education, Health and Care Plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs.

Parents can ask their local authority to assess the needs of a young person with special educational needs or disabilities, taking into account their individual social environment, care, special educational needs, health and support. This information is brought together in an Education Health and Care Plan which identifies educational, health and social needs and sets out support to meet those needs.

All local council websites will show their "local offer," a list of education, health and social care services in their local area provided for children, young people and families who have special education needs or disabilities.

The Department for Education has produced a detailed guide to ECH plans that you may find useful.

Reduced school hours and learning at home

Many young people with M.E. attend school on a part-time basis that is appropriate to their needs, eg. late starts, half days and attending only specific lessons. Managing continuity of lessons can be challenging - catching up with missed lessons, getting and completing homework by due date and lack of social time with friends are all challenges that your child will face. 

Having regular meetings between parent, teachers and the school to address these needs as they arise can be beneficial for a child with M.E.

Local authorities have a home teaching service (they have many names, such as Home and Hospital Teaching, or Community Teaching) to support pupils who cannot attend their mainstream school due to medical needs. You can find details under the education section of your local authority website.

School can make a referral, supported by medical evidence to show why a child is unable to attend mainstream school. Most home teaching services will provide up to five hours teaching a week (ideally one hour per day), although this may be more or less depending on a child's condition. Home teachers should liaise closely with a child's school for work and may focus on the core subjects of maths, English and science because of the limited time available.

Once a child with M.E. is ready to move back to school, the home teaching staff should then move the teaching from home to school, with a plan to reintegrate back into lessons when appropriate.

Exam concessions

Exams can be stressful, which could have an impact on the symptoms of a child living with M.E.. So it's good to have concessions in place, even if the child doesn't need them on the day.

The aim of exam concessions is to give children an equal opportunity to demonstrate their ability in the skills being assessed when standard arrangements may make this difficult for them, such as giving them extra time to fill out their answers. Remember that all requests for exam concession need to be supported by a medical letter. If possible, the letter should name the requested concessions and give reasons why it is required.

Generally speaking, examination boards are more than happy to support young people with a medical condition. Even if their guidelines don't mention a specific concession or request, it's a good idea to ask.