To read this content please select one of the options below:

Returning to school: children and young people living with chronic illness

Nicola J. Gray (UNESCO Chair ‘Global Health and Education’ Research Group, Paris, France)
Didier Jourdan (WHO Collaborating Centre and UNESCO Chair ‘Global Health and Education’, ACTé EA 4281 Research Group, and Faculty of Education, Université Clermont-Auvergne, France)
Janet E. McDonagh (Versus Arthritis Centre for Epidemiology, Centre for MSK Research, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK; NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK and Department of Paediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 25 September 2020

Issue publication date: 15 December 2020




The reopening of schools during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is full of challenges for families, which are heightened for children and young people (CYP) who live with chronic illnesses. This paper aims to offer a framework to support the successful return of CYP with chronic illnesses to school using appropriate intersectoral strategies.


This paper draws on research data on the impact of school closure on CYP with chronic illness and emerging findings of global research about their lives during the pandemic. It is also informed by the perspectives of practitioners in the field, who are working with these CYP and their families.


A framework based on three different strategies for a successful return is established. A small but significant group of CYP living with conditions such as cancer will not yet return and will need ongoing home education provision. CYP with well-controlled symptoms of chronic illness will benefit from school routines and socialization with peers. CYP with poorly controlled illness will need close supervision and individual plans. All groups will benefit from better intersectoral working across education and health and from recent rapid developments in hybrid learning models and telemedicine.


This viewpoint highlights the need for a strategic approach to the return to school of CYP with chronic illness that goes well beyond classifying them as vulnerable students. This group of CYP is already at risk of lower educational attainment, so widening inequalities must be halted. This paper provides a framework for anchoring local intersectoral approaches adapted to the different situations of CYP.



Gray, N.J., Jourdan, D. and McDonagh, J.E. (2020), "Returning to school: children and young people living with chronic illness", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 235-241.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles