Heads say they won't play doctor

Neil Munro

PRIMARY heads have dismissed moves to improve arrangements for over teachers giving medicine to pupils as "skating over" the problems. And they believe the shift of pupils out of special schools into mainstream classes could make matters worse.

A good practice guide was issued in the names of Jack McConnell, Education Minister, and Susan Deacon, Health Minister.

The guidance states: "If parents or guardians ask that their children be given medicine in school then it is essential that the NHS and education authorities work together."

The document makes it clear that teachers should not be compelled to administer medicines. Volunteers should be trained to cope with conditions such as allergic reactions, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, eczema and epilepsy. Training should include advice on side effects.

But the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, which represents primary heads, says the guidance should have made it clear that heads must volunteer as well. It simply states that "day to day decisions about administering medication will normally fall to the headteacher."

The document adds, however: "The headteacher will need to agree with the parents exactly what support the school can provide for a child with health care needs. Where there is concern about whether the school can meet a pupil's needs, or where the parents' expectations appear unreasonable, the headteacher can seek advice from the school nurse or doctor or other medical advisers and, if appropriate, the education authority."

The AHTS remains to be convinced and Jim Smith, its secretary, told The TES Scotland: "A good many of the children involved would normally be in special school where medical support is available on tap. This should be available in other schools as well given the growing trend to include these children in mainstream schools, a principle we support.

"At the end of the day, it's a matter of cost."

The Executive's guide also reminds authorities that insurance must provide cover against possible legal action being taken by parents alleging negligence and blaming the school.

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Neil Munro

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