Being a child and going to school is taken as a parcel of the same thing by most people but this is not the same for children with physical conditions, who cannot avoid absence from school for significant periods of time rather prolonged or recurrent/intermittent. What matters in this context is not primarily the seriousness of the child’s condition but how much and in what way schooling affects his or her ability to fully benefit from the provided opportunities. Participation in school activities promotes children’s interaction and collaboration educationally and socially. Their involvement and sense of belonging can be affected considerably owing to a physical condition, not least because of prolonged absence. Staying connected to school contributes to their sense of normality towards daily life routine, increase hope and distract their attention from the invasion of medical treatment (Wilkie & Jones, 2010). Additionally, keeping children connected to school and learning during absence from school is very important to ensure that these children do not prematurely disengage from their expected educational journeys (Hopkins et al., 2014). These children may have many individual requirements but like their healthy peers, they share the desire for equal access to the same educational outcomes, both academically and socially. If their needs are not timely taken care of, the school can become a place of failure, both academically and socially, in no time.
Considering mainstream primary schools, my research has studied the opinions of teachers and other educators about the provision available for children who miss more than 50% of school over a 3 months’ period due to a physical condition. The research question for this proposal originated from my own experience as a mother of a precious child with a physical condition. The current research has 52 research participants, 45 questionnaire respondents and 7 interviewees, having different roles as educational professionals. Using a mixed methods approach, this research aims to provide a more comprehensive description of the ways in which teachers and educational professionals in Wales and England provide academic continuity to the children in Key Stage 2 (age 7–11) with physical conditions during their prolonged absence.
Since similar themes cut across the two sets of data, I have combined the findings from questionnaires and semi-structured interviews that suggest that teachers and other professionals are aware of the impact of physical conditions on children’s school life. Also,
they focus on the main barriers in Wales and England which hinder the appropriate academic continuity of this group of children, including issues such as: muddled understanding of accepting roles and responsibility among professionals, limited awareness and professional training for teachers, compromised quality education at home and in mainstream schools and the absence of clear guidelines on medication, first aid procedures and prolonged absence in schools. The findings also suggest that the four means of supporting academic continuity, considered in this research i.e. using technology, individualized instruction, bed-side teaching in hospital and home tutoring for children’s academic continuity are not regularly practiced in the schools in Wales and England.
Based on the findings of my research, it is recommended that teachers should be provided regular trainings to support the academic continuity of these children. Further, it is important for every primary school to develop a personalized policy statement for this group of children that is accessible to every staff member and is referred in full when dealing with issues in this area.