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Teachers concern over medical care of pupils

23 April, 2001

Teachers are increasingly being called upon to perform medical and health care procedures without adequate training, according to delegates to a union conference.

Delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers conference in Jersey highlighted their fears that a teacher put in such a situation may unwittingly do something, or fail to do something, possibly resulting in a child being harmed and a teacher being sued by parents.

One delegate told the conference that his local branch of the union had advised its members not to administer any medicines to pupils. "Don't even put a plaster on in case the child is allergic" he said.

Many teachers were concerned that there was an assumption that teachers would take on children with a range of conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and asthma. 

The risk of facing accusations of abuse in giving medical assistance was also highlighted. The conference heard of the case of a male teacher in his 20s who had been pressed into including on a field trip to the moors an 11 year old girl with epilepsy, with instructions to administer rectal valium if she had a seizure.

Delegates called for risk assessments to be performed before such children were admitted to schools and a plan to be agreed on who would be responsible for administering medicines, with some teachers calling for more school nurses to be appointed. 

However, delegates did stress that they did not want to deny children the opportunity of getting the best education that they can. One teacher told the conference:

"It's that there is an assumption on the part of many employers to accept them in the classroom without looking properly at the implications of that.

"Teachers do not have the chance to say 'Hang on, how do I stand on that - I don't have the qualifications, I don't have the experience, I'm not a medical expert'".