For children with epilepsy, dependence on a trained caregiver to administer medication may make them particularly vulnerable to stigmatisation and poor social integration with their peers. There is also a detrimental impact on parents, who must always be ‘on call’ for their children.
Diabetes UK shared the story of one mother who reported that her son’s school had placed his life in danger. The boy, who has type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease, experienced a low blood sugar episode and his school failed to call an ambulance immediately, calling his mother instead. While the Department for Education acknowledged that the school was at fault, the mother was told that it was up to her to resolve the issue with the school or governors.
Ensuring adherence to the law
But if the Department for Education won’t hold schools accountable for failing to adhere to regulations regarding medical conditions, what incentive is there for them to do so? Will a school wait until a potentially catastrophic incident occurs before implementing the necessary policies?
The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance wants the Department for Education to do more to make schools aware of their legal responsibility to put these compulsory policies in place. It is also calling on Ofsted, the schools inspectorate and regulator, to start checking whether schools are complying with the legislation.
The challenge for schools
Of course, it’s not a case of schools simply not bothering to follow the rules. Across England, schools face serious cuts to resources. Some schools are reported to be considering reducing the number of teaching hours because they cannot afford enough teachers to cover the timetable. Meanwhile, class sizes in UK schools are among the largest in the world; the number of secondary school children in England being taught in classes of over 35 pupils has trebled in the last five years.
With the current crisis in school funding, there have even been reports that mainstream schools may have to turn away pupils with special educational need and disabilities, as they simply do not have the resources to support them.
The need for a whole-system approach
There’s no easy solution. Lack of funding is a problem that permeates every level of society, with both healthcare and education in England facing ongoing cuts. But it is not acceptable for schools to ignore legislation on implementing crucial health conditions policies.
The only way to address this issue is through a whole-system approach, where the education and health sectors work together with parents and children. Policymakers in both health and education must provide joint guidance and ensure schools have the resources to address the needs of children with medical conditions. Many things are inevitably sacrificed when funding is scarce – but children’s safety and right to education must not be among them.
To read more about this topic:
The Health Policy Partnership has published previously on policies relating to the administration of emergency medication for children with epilepsy in schools. See the ‘childhood epilepsy’ section on our Publications page.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Health Policy Partnership.