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Supporting Children with Medical
and Mental Health Needs at School

 

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GCSE exams

My daughter is an able student but has CFS so only attends school part-time.  She does most of the science, art, and history lessons at school. In addition, the school have arranged a 1:1 maths lesson each week with follow-up work at home and daily online English lessons Monday to Thursday with Academy 21.  She also does weekly sociology lessons with the tuition hub.  She has shown she is able to study independently and manage her time and energy well.  Her CFS specialist says that most students with CFS can only get 5-6 GCSEs in Y11 because of missing a lot of school.  She has suggested that she does her GCSEs staggered over Y9, Y10 and Y11.  She has already done Y9 English with Academy 21(a year early) and they have offered a one year GCSE English  next.  I am waiting to hear back from the SENCO about this.  I also want her to take GCSE photography next summer.  I can teach her myself and have all of the equipment.  She won’t need any teaching at school just space in the exam room and assessment but the school will not do this as a reasonable adjustment despite allowing my son to do this already as he also has CFS.  Can you help?  Is there any additional info that I can give them to support staggered GCSEs?  She is very able and the photography teacher expects my son to get one of the best GCSE grades in the class despite not attending a single lesson so I’m sure she’d get an above-average grade.  They just won’t be flexible as they say that research shows children get better grades if they take exams in Y11 but that will be for well children attending a full timetable.  I will be very grateful for any support you can offer.

 

Embarking on GCSE and A-level exam courses can be a challenging time for young people with health conditions. Generally, there's talk of fitting large amounts of content into a relatively short space of time and this can be very stressful when a young person knows they are likely to have periods of interrupted learning.

We see a wide variety of responses from schools when it comes to reasonable adjustments. Some schools are very rigid and make little attempt to adapt or adjust to the needs of students. Some schools are more open to listening to the young person, their family, and health professionals when making a plan for covering GCSE courses and exams. We've found that outcomes are generally best where there is flexibility and the young person feels they're being listened to.

It sounds as if your daughter's school has been open to making some adjustments that you feel are beneficial to your daughter. Has your daughter had an opportunity to give her views on what she thinks will support her through school over the next two years? We've found that an open and constructive dialogue helps. This means having an opportunity to regularly review how things are going and having the opportunity to make changes as or when things change. This seems particularly important given the nature of CFS.

Staggering GCSEs is something some schools are open to doing but they tend to consider this for just one or two subjects, as you mention, research shows that most students do better when they sit exams in year 11. In your daughters' case, the rationale is different to say schools wanting to spread the exams for a whole year group. This is why your daughter's view is so important. Getting to the point of sitting the actual exams is only part of the journey. An important consideration is what will sustain her in her efforts to get there. Having an interest in the subject often helps as well as knowing her goals are flexible and achievable is also important.

If your daughter feels able to talk to the SENCO this may help the school understand what's important to her. If meeting with or talking directly to the SENCO isn't something she feels able to do, perhaps she can write her views for the SENCo to read before an agreement is reached.

If you need additional support for yourself or your daughter, you may find your local authority information and advice service can help. You can find contact details depending on where you live here councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk/what-we-do-0/networks/information-advice-and-support-services-network/find-your-local-ias-service

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind regards,
The Well at School team

 

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HOPE (Hospital Organisation of Pedagogues in Europe)