Why should schools support pupils with medical conditions?
Entrusting the care and safety of your child to another person can be a cause of great concern for many parents. Such worries are only natural. However, when your child has a medical condition, these feelings of apprehension are likely to be heightened.
What might some of these concerns be?
- Will my child’s health deteriorate when they attend school?
- Will the school be able to provide the ongoing support my child needs to help them manage their condition and keep them well?
- What if there’s an emergency situation? Does the school have the proper support to respond to the situation in a timely manner?
What other concerns might parents or perhaps the child themselves have?
- Children may be self-conscious about their condition
- Some may be bullied or develop emotional disorders around their medical condition
- Long-term absences due to health problems affect children’s educational attainment, impact on their ability to integrate with their peers and affect their general wellbeing and emotional health.
With all these considerations, when parents entrust the care of their child to a school, it is important that they are confident that the school will provide effective support for their child’s medical condition and keep their child safe. (1)
How can schools support pupils with medical conditions? - Medicines Policy
Many of the concerns discussed previously can be reduced when parents (and children) know that willing members of staff are working in harmony with clear, up-to-date policies and procedures.
In accordance with the Department for Education statutory guidance: Supporting pupils with medical conditions at school, schools in England are required by law to have a medical conditions policy. (1) However, in a 2017 survey, only 1 in 10 schools could prove that they had an appropriate medical conditions policy (2).
A schools medicine policy should include:
- Procedures to be followed when the school is notified that a pupil has a medical condition
- Detail of parental responsibilities and the requirement for prior written agreement
- Outline of the roles and responsibilities of staff
- The role and development of an individual healthcare plans (IHP)
- Arrangements for children who are competent to manage their own health needs and medicines (pupils who self-administer)
- Procedures for facilitating the pupil’s participation in school trips and visits, or in sporting activities, so that they aren’t prevented from taking part
- Contingency plans for emergency situations
This is not an exhaustive list. If advice is needed on an existing policy or a new policy needs to be written, please contact us for further information.
How can schools support pupils with medical conditions? - Medicines Training for Staff
Although they are not obliged to do so, any member of school staff may be asked to provide support to pupils with medical conditions, including the administering of medicines. (1)
The value and importance of staff who volunteer to take up this important role should not be undervalued or go unappreciated.
Even where a member of staff may not be required to administer medicines, they should still be able to take into account the needs of pupils with medical conditions that they teach or support. (1)
School staff should receive sufficient and suitable training and achieve the necessary level of competency before they take on responsibility to support children with medical conditions. Any member of school staff should be confident that they know what to do and respond accordingly when they become aware that a pupil with a medical condition needs help. (1)
What is the minimum training required to administer medicines?
The Opus course, ‘Medicines Awareness (Foundation) for Schools and Early Years’ is considered appropriate training to deliver basic medication in a school environment.
Further training may be required to administer asthma medication or adrenaline auto-injectors or for pupils with complex medical needs such as epilepsy or diabetes.
How many members of staff should be trained?
It is the responsibility of each school to determine how many staff should be trained. This is likely to vary from school to school.
It should be noted however that in larger schools or where pupils leave the school premises to participate in off-site activities (e.g. sports, field trips, and residential trips) then multiple staff members should be trained in order to maintain a good standard of support.
Additionally, in line with the Department of Education guidance outlined earlier, even where members of staff do not administer medicines, there is real benefit in them enhancing their awareness of how to support pupils with medical conditions.
How often should training be refreshed?
Members of staff should undertake the ‘Foundation’ training at least every three years.
Opus also provides a ‘Medicines Awareness (Refresher) for Schools and Early years’ that can be attended in the interim period.
For children with more complex needs, refresher training should be undertaken annually or as appropriate in response to the pupil’s specific medical needs.
Please contact us for more information or advice.
1) Department of Education statutory guidance: Supporting pupils with medical conditions at school
2) Health Conditions in Schools Alliance: http://www.medicalconditionsatschool.org.uk/