Teaching assistants give medical treatment ‘without training’

By politics.co.uk staff

The process by which teaching assistants give pupils medicine and treatment without having had any training is “an accident waiting to happen”, according to a prominent public services union.

“I know school teaching assistants who routinely have to change colostomy bags, administer drugs or epilepsy medicine,” said Michelle McKenna, a Unison schools support worker from Durham.

“Some staff have to do tube feeding or take children as old as their early teens into the toilet – often without being given the proper training.”

The union is calling for an urgent review of the types of medical procedures taking place in schools.

National protocols should be drawn up in consultation with education and health professionals, as well as unions representing those staff, Unison said.

A survey by the union found that more than 70 per cent of teaching assistants and schools support staff are expected to administer medicines for conditions including asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, and to complete complex medical procedures, including changing colostomy bags and tube feeding children.

Many staff reported feeling a moral pressure to give medical support, but had only routine first aid training. Few staff members reported receiving specialist training.

Christina McAnea, Unison head of education, said: “This evidence shows a chronic lack of training and support for school staff who are expected to provide a wide range of medical support to pupils.

“Many reported feeling ’emotionally blackmailed’ into doing these tasks and were worried about the potential risks to children.

“Imagine the pressure of being told that a child could not go on a trip unless you would change their colostomy bag, but you hadn’t had specialist training to do that job?” she continued.

“The current situation cannot continue. We are bound to see a serious incident if schools don’t get the help they need to manage children’s special medical needs. The current arrangements are an accident waiting to happen.”