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Can people with epilepsy become nursery nurses, teachers or lecturers? Myth-busting

This page is about National Epilepsy Week 2013. Find out how you can get involved in 2016.

Myth: People with epilepsy should not become nursery nurses, teachers, or lecturers

Fact: There should be no barriers for people with epilepsy wanting to work in these professions

Teacher in classroom

Working in education

People with epilepsy can work in education and with children in a wide variety of roles. This includes work as a nursery nurse, classroom assistant, class teacher, head teacher, tutor and lecturer. Epilepsy does not prohibit people from working with children. However, we are aware of people who have faced barriers in getting the training and support they need for career in teaching.

Background

People with epilepsy can and do, work in the nursery nursing, teaching and learning professions. Epilepsy itself is not an automatic barrier to working in these careers or accessing relevant training and work placements. To refuse a person employment or training justbecause of their epilepsy could be disability discrimination and unlawful. Decisions on fitness to teach or practice must be made on an individual basis.

However, to work as a teacher a person must meet the Secretary of State’s requirement for health and physical capacity to teach.

Occasionally we are contacted by employers wanting more information about epilepsy. Their concern is about the health and welfare of the person with epilepsy, and the students in their care. To support a person to carry out their duties safely, risk assessments, re-definition of role and reasonable adjustments might be needed. Further information about these adjustments can be found in our nursery nursing, teaching and lecturing policy statement.

Case study

Teacher training – Rob Wilks

Rob Wilks worked in teaching for almost 30 years. He told us about his experience: “I was very fortunate to survive in teaching for such a long time. Initially I only disclosed that which I felt was really necessary. With time I grew in confidence and after about 10 years in the profession I became quite open about things.

“What counted was that my most professional headteachers, colleagues and the pupils saw me as a person first and someone with epilepsy second. I had simple partial and complex focal seizures occasionally whilst in school, and pupils and other teachers witnessed them. Fortunately it caused little concern probably because they knew what to expect. The children in my class who knew I had epilepsy did not seem bothered when I had a seizure. They were certainly intrigued, but not worried.”

Challenging the myth

It’s important to help your employer or potential employers to understand your epilepsy. The health and welfare of you and your students is important to your employer. As a first step you should try and write as much as you can about your epilepsy in the application form or cover letter.

You could also arrange an appointment to talk to your employer about your epilepsy. At this appointment try to be honest and open about your epilepsy. You should describe your seizure type, seizure pattern and what happens before, during and after your seizure. It’s also a good idea to discuss any first aid requirements, and what help or support might be required in the classroom. Epilepsy Action can give you information about epilepsy and first aid that might help.

Depending on your support needs, your employer might want to talk about the job role. This will include possible ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can be made to the job. Reasonable adjustments can be made to help you to do the job effectively. They can also be put in place to help keep you, and the people in your care safe, should a seizure occur. Epilepsy Action’s position statement on nursery nursing, teaching and lecturing might help you both to think about possible reasonable adjustments.

Ultimately if you believe that you are being discriminated against, The Epilepsy Helpline can give you further advice. This might include making a note or keeping a diary that shows the dates that you were discriminated against. You should also write exactly what happened, what you did to try and resolve the issue, and how this made you feel. If you are a member of a union, you should contact your union for advice, help and support

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Comments: read the 4 comments or add yours

Comments

hi I have epilepsy since childhood but I completed all my studies now all I want a career in teaching or assistant in this field . I have applied as a volunteer in a kinder where they have asked me about my medical conditions and I've mentioned as well about it. But my worry is whether they will accept a volunteer with epilepsy or not. Please reply if anyone can suggest what should I do if they say no on this basis. Thanks

Submitted by nitika on

Hi Nikita
Here is all our information about work. Because you have epilepsy you are covered by the Equality Act. If the organisation knows you have epilepsy, they have to do a risk assessment. If any risks are identified, they then need to consider any possible reasonable adjustments. Really it all depends on your level of seizure control. And the answers to the risk assessment questions. For example, if you haven’t had any seizures for over a year, then there should not be any risks identified.

If you come across any problems with this, feel free to give us a ring on the Epilepsy Action helpline Freephone 0808 800 5050.

Cherry
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

Hi,
I am currently applying to train as a secondary school teacher through a scheme called "School Direct" (working within the school as an apprentice from the start). I do not have 'grand mal' seizures anymore (due to appropriate medication) but, I do have 'petit mal' seizures about once a fortnight. They last around 30 seconds. Outwardly they are subtle, I remain apparently in control but, 'absent' and I am certainly unconscious throughout. In an interview at an academy status school the other day I chose to discuss it. I think it had an effect on my not being successful. Can anyone suggest who I should approach for advice on this sort of matter?
Thank you from
Dominic

Submitted by Dominic Hopkins on

Dear Dominic
Many thanks for your message. This must be a frustrating situation to find yourself in.

Having epilepsy should not be an automatic barrier to you working as a Teacher. Each person’s ability to perform their job safely should be assessed on an individual basis. With the right support and reasonable adjustments, people with epilepsy are able to work successfully in education.

As a person with epilepsy you are protected by the Equality Laws at work. This means you should not be treated differently just because you have epilepsy. When you are looking for work an employer is only allowed to ask you about your health before they offer you the job if they have a good reason to do so. Examples of this include if they need to make a reasonable adjustment for your job interview or an assessment, or if there are health and safety reasons why you could not do the essential features of a specific job.

There are many different types of epilepsy, and how it affects each person is individual to them. Often people tell their prospective employer once they have been offered the job. This means an employer can do a risk assessment and make any reasonable adjustments which would help them to do their job. In a role such as teaching, to maintain the health and safety of yourself and those in your care, reasonable adjustments may be required. You may find it helpful to take a look at our position statement on nursery nursing, teaching and lecturing for examples of reasonable adjustments which could be made for you should you need them.

Some people tell us that before starting work they found it useful to get advice about their rights in employment from a variety of sources. Exploring the information provided by organisations such as the Citizens Advice and Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) can be a good way to make sure you are informed. If ever you feel that you have been treated unfairly because of your epilepsy, you could contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) for advice. Their Helpline advises and assists individuals on issues relating to equality and human rights.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Karen
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on