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Teachers 'upset' sick children

Karen Thornton reports from the British Psychological Society conference

"UNHELPFUL" teachers are not making life easy for chronically ill children in mainstream schools - more than a third of whom say they have been bullied or teased.

Half of the secondary school pupils questioned by researchers from York University said teachers were the cause of "upset and difficulty".

Examples included incontinent pupils being refused permission to go to the toilet and teachers not believing pupils with ME and juvenile arthritis were ill.

Both teachers and pupils surveyed by the university's Suzanne Wright, Jane Lightfoot and Patricia Sloper agreed that the main problem was teachers' lack of information about pupils' medical problems - and their implications for school life.

Their research, presented to this week's British Psychological Society conference, recommends health workers deal more directly with teachers.

"At present, the way in which teachers respond to young people with chronic physical conditions seems highly variable, depending on whether they are aware of and understand the pupils' special health needs," says the paper.

"In order to improve this situation, professionals working within and outside of schools need to develop effective mechanisms for passing on information about special health needs to all teachers involved with the child."

Thirty-three pupils from 19 secondary schools took part in the study, which asked what support they needed from health and education services. They had a range of conditions, including asthma, diabetes, cerebral palsy, juvenile arthritis, ME, spina bifida, cystic fibrosis, renal failure and cancer.

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