New statutory guidance for schools on supporting pupils with medical conditions is to come into force in September.
Published on April 30, the 24-page guidance document has been welcomed by school leaders, although concerns have been raised over the tight timescale for implementation and whether enough staff will volunteer to be trained to administer medicines.
The guidance, entitled Supporting Pupils at School with Medical Conditions, says governing bodies must ensure a policy is in place detailing how their school supports such pupils.
It also sets out the roles and responsibilities of the range of people involved, including headteachers, governors, school nurses, wider school staff, other healthcare professionals, the pupils themselves and their parents.
The guidance touches upon staff training and support requirements, the administration of medicines on school premises, and emergency procedures.
It emphasises that staff must not give prescription medicines or undertake healthcare procedures without appropriate training, which should be updated to reflect individual healthcare plans.
However, it also states that school staff cannot be required to take on these roles: “Any member of school staff may be asked to provide support to pupils with medical conditions, including the administering of medicines, although they cannot be required to do so.”
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) welcomed the guidance, but warned that some schools might struggle to find enough staff to volunteer.
General secretary Russell Hobby said: “School leaders may be faced with a situation where none of their staff volunteer for the extra medical responsibility when it comes to invasive administration of medicines.”
Mr Hobby has also raised concerns over the timescale for implementation, which he said was challenging given that a number of other reforms are due to come into effect at the same time.
He added: “Staff will need to be trained to cope with particular conditions and heads will now need to ensure that the required individual pupil healthcare plans for those children with medical needs are in place.”
Elsewhere in the guidance, it is emphasised that no child under-16 should be given prescription or non-prescription medicines without their parent’s written consent. It also recommends that students have individual healthcare plans to “provide clarity about what needs to be done, when and by whom”.
It outlines what should be included within such a plan, but also says that plans will not be necessary for every child and that the school should agree whether one is appropriate based on discussions with parents and healthcare professionals.
It comes as the Department for Education (DfE) unveiled a deal which will, from the autumn, allow schools to buy defibrillator machines at a lower, more competitive price.
A DfE statement said: “A defibrillator is a life-saving machine that gives the heart an electric shock and can make a difference between life and death. The government is working to identify a supplier who will offer defibrillators – which cost around £1,000 – to all schools at a competitive price.”
Figures from the Oliver King Foundation show that 270 children die every year of a sudden cardiac arrest while at school. At least 300 others die in public places where young people gather. Mr Hobby added: “These devices can save the lives of both pupils and staff. Modern defibrillators are easy to use and very safe.”
The statutory guidance can be accessed at http://bit.ly/PRfNQv