When the rules start to wheeze

9th October 1998 at 01:00
This has been National Asthma Week (page five), a timely reminder which highlights unresolved issues about the school experiences of pupils suffering from illness and allergies. If raising awareness that one in seven children aged two to 15 suffers from asthma is the first step towards effective intervention, then the value of such national weeks will have been endorsed.

But a quick glance at the six-point model asthma policy for schools, drawn up by the Scottish asthma campaign, implies that schools require the usual triumvirate of staffing, training and time. Staff must receive asthma training, there should be time for liaison, asthmatic children should be fully involved in school activities, schools should enforce smoking bans, and - the sine qua non of such statements - the policy must be monitored.

This, of course, is of wider concern than just asthma. As we have reported over the years, there are also many boundary issues to be settled in supporting pupils suffering from illnesses, whose numbers have steadily grown as schools have become more genuinely inclusive. The major tension has been between the health boards and education authorities, and it does no credit to the Scottish Office that it has failed so conspicuously to bang their heads together by issuing clear guidance on the administration of medication to pupils as has happened in England and Wales.

Teachers, naturally, will help where they can although fear of litigation where things go wrong is ever present. Professional common sense has to be exercised. But the position of teachers in particular needs to be made clearer, and less vulnerable.

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