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Medical training for teachers call

Proper medical training must be given to teaching assistants who administer medicines and treatments to schoolchildren, says the public sector union Unison.

It reports that seven in 10 are expected to give medicines for conditions such as asthma and diabetes and carry out medical procedures, including changing colostomy bags.

Half are not aware that these duties are voluntary, while a third were not confident about implementing their school's policy for administering treatments.

Support and treatment that staff provide include for percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy feeding, tracheal tube cleaning, Epi Pen use, asthma, eczema, diabetes and epilepsy.

Says Unison spokeswoman Christina McAnea: "This evidence shows a chronic lack of training and support for school staff who are expected to provide a wide range of medical support to pupils. Many reported feeling emotionally blackmailed into doing these tasks and were worried about the potential risks to children.

"Imagine the pressure of being told that a child could not go on a trip unless you would change their colostomy bag, but you hadn't had specialist training to do that job?"

Unison called for national protocols to be drawn up in consultation with education and health chiefs, as well as unions.

Copyright © Press Association 2009


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"It is not feasible for all medications to be given outside of school hours. Long-term conditions such as asthma and diabetes are part of a child's life. Until they reach an age where they are able to take control of their own medications, teachers have to be able to assist with medication. After all, children are in their care for 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. Of course, I agree the training should be provided to enable them to be confident in that role but it it does have to be part of their role. Asthma symptoms, for example, can happen at any time, you cannot expect a parent to be contacted to come in and administer medication, by the time the parent has been contacted and got to the school a full blown asthma attack could have happened. As a practice nurse it is incredibly frustrating to hear from parents and children that inhalers are locked away in drawers, or children in high school sent on cross country runs in winter without inhalers! This is clearly down to a lack of knowledge and information for teachers which has to be addressed. Teachers and teaching assistants need training and support in this area to enable them to be confident and understand risk factors such as exercise in cold weather is likely to trigger asthma symptoms. We have a duty to enable children with chronic disease to continue a normal life and as such teachers have to be a part of that." - C Leach, North West

"I think medication for children should be given by their own parents and/or relatives and do not feel this responsibility should be placed on teachers. The timing of medication should be such to allow for parents to continue this parental role outside the school for their own children." - V Henry, London