Legal Update: Legal Q&A - Schools and long-term medical conditions

Coram Children's Legal Centre
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Q. Do schools have a legal duty to support children with long-term medical conditions?

A. At present, the law fails to impose a clear duty on schools to provide support to children with long-term medical needs. Instead, the duties of schools to provide support to such children are derived from various common law principles (principles developed by the courts), legislation, and government policy and guidance. Key among these is the common law duty of teaching staff to take reasonable care for the safety and welfare of their students. Also key is the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits schools from discriminating against a pupil on protected grounds, which include disabilities. A student who has a physical impairment, such as diabetes, asthma or epilepsy, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, is considered to be disabled for these purposes.

In the absence of a legislative anchor, the law has left children with long-term medical needs in an uncertain position in terms of the support they can expect to receive from their schools. Acknowledging this problem, the government has introduced a new legal provision in the Children and Families Bill requiring all state schools to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions. The bill is at the reporting stage in the House of Lords.

Do you have any questions?

Email them to or call the Child Law Advice Line on 08088 020 008, The National Education Line on 0845 345 4345, Or visit

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