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Legal issues

NEW regulations aimed at making schools more accessible to disabled pupils have revived the long-running debate over how medicines should be administered in schools.

Teachers are not legally obliged to give pupils medication. But some pupils would be put at a disadvantage if schools did not administer medicines. The accessibility plans that all schools must have drawn up by the end of this month should include a section on medicines.

Last year, Preston County Court awarded pound;3,000 to a pupil who was banned from a school visit because he had diabetes. Some teachers feel that they are emotionally blackmailed by parents into providing medical care for children. But it now seems certain that schools must accept responsibility in principle. Schools should have clear policies covering pupils' medical needs, based on government guidance in Supporting pupils with medical needs.

The circumstances in which a school will supervise the taking of medication will be for governors to decide after consulting the staff and medical experts.

For most schools the solution is to ask a trained staff member to supervise medication. Other staff may volunteer but must be trained. Teachers need to be consulted if a child with a known medical condition is put in their class, but all staff should know about a pupil's needs and what to do if there is an emergency. Where a pupil has a chronic condition, the school will have to consider the issue of confidentiality. Staff should be informed on a "need to know" basis in these cases.

Policies should state that each individual case will be decided after discussion with parents, particularly regarding participation in PE and educational visits.

Parents must provide written details of the medicines with clear instructions on how and when they are to be administered. The doctor prescribing them should be noted.

Each medicine dose must be recorded and the records kept for at least 15 months. They should be reviewed periodically by the headteacher, and an annual report made to the governors.

Circular 1496 Supporting Pupils with Medical Needs in School; Access to Education for Children and Young People, DfES; DfES Guidance 01682002: Planning to Increase Access to Schools for Disabled Pupils

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