Children with epilepsy are failing to reach their full potential because of a lack of awareness among teachers of the impact the condition can have on their schoolwork, according to a survey launched as part of National Epilepsy Week (May 14-20 2006).
Less than a quarter of UK primary and secondary school teachers surveyed by the charity Epilepsy Action thought that their awareness and knowledge of the condition was good. Yet almost half acknowledged that epilepsy could greatly affect a child's educational performance, and a further three-quarters believed that having epilepsy could affect a pupil's relationship with other pupils.
The charity highlighted that epilepsy affects an estimated one in 214 children and young people of school age. However, the study showed that 27 per cent of respondents did not know how many of their pupils had epilepsy. Some 74 per cent recognised that all members of staff would benefit from specific training.
Elizabeth Anderson, education policy and campaign officer for Epilepsy Action, said:
'These figures clearly illustrate the fact that many children with epilepsy are struggling unnecessarily at school while much more could be done to help them. However, with the right help and support, children with epilepsy can enjoy and achieve at school. It is essential that school staff have the knowledge and understanding to make this happen.'
As part of a campaign launched by Epilepsy Action during National Epilepsy Week, the charity is calling on the government to recognise and address the specific needs of young people with epilepsy in the education system and for all staff to improve their understanding of the condition.
In a separate study carried out by the charity among parents of children with epilepsy, more than half said that their child had difficulties completing class work because of their condition. The most common reasons cited for this were concentration difficulties and tiredness, rather than the seizures themselves.
Elizabeth Anderson added:
'If teaching professionals are unaware that a child has epilepsy, or that the condition can affect their learning then they are not making adequate provision. Achieving their full potential should be a reality for every child with epilepsy and it is vital that schools take advantage of the information and training that is available.'