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Teaching assistants treating schoolchildren without training

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Teaching assistants are frequently being asked to give medicines and treatment to schoolchildren without sufficient training, according a UNISON survey.

An online survey by the union found that more than 70% of the 334 teaching assistants and schools support staff who replied were expected to administer medicines for conditions including asthma and diabetes.

Respondents were also routinely asked to complete complex medical procedures, such as changing colostomy bags and tube feeding children.

However, few staff reported having received specialist training, with most having only completed routine first aid courses.

The union is calling for an urgent review of the types of medical procedures taking place in schools and wants national protocols drawn up.

Michelle McKenna, a schools support worker from Durham, said: ‘I know school support staff who routinely have to change colostomy bags, administer drugs or epilepsy medicine. Some staff have to do tube feeding or take children as old as their early teens into the toilet – often without proper training.’

UNISON head of education Christina McAnea said: ‘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.’


Key findings of the survey include:

70% of respondents are expected to administer medicines as part of their job

85% of respondents are expected to provide medical support as part of their job

50% of respondents were not aware that these were voluntary duties

33% were not familiar with, or confident about, implementing the school’s policy and procedure on the administration of medicines and medical procedures

38% did not know if the medical support that they provided was covered by the school’s medical policy

7% provided support that was not covered by the school’s medical policy

25% did not feel competent and comfortable with the responsibility of administering medicines or providing medical support

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • In most areas now Children's Clinical Education Facilitators train TA's and other carers using training competencies written and updated every 2 years using best evidence and practice. Carers and TA's only accept responsibility for the tasks when they feel competent and happy to do so. Before colleagues feel that this is giving too much responsibility to untrained staff or giving up the nurses role to them, please consider that in the care of children with complex needs, the real experts have always been the parents, and the majority of them are not "trained". Without TA's ,carers and other non nurses taking on these tasks most children with complex care needs would not be able to have an education, and to simply be with other children.
    By all means, if you do not feel supported, and if training is not adequate, then do not take on the role. However do not deny these children the opportunity to live as full lives as possible, thanks to the hard work and dedication of TA's, teachers and other non nurse trained people.
    We are not trying to create a hospital at home, but a HOME where some clinical tasks have to be carried out often 24hrs a day, and which will fall to exhausted parents without the support from a multi agency team.

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