Epilepsy training for school staff would help the 60,000 children with the condition in the UK, according to a charity.
The results of a successful pilot suggests that up to half of these children have real difficulties in school, which negatively affects their future lives. Basic epilepsy training for school staff helps change these pupils’ lives for the better, according to the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy.
The charity’s report outlines its Champions for Childhood Epilepsy campaign in 21 schools in the Tandridge area of Surrey. Each school taking part in the scheme chose a staff member to become its “epilepsy champion”, who received free training from the NCYPE and returned to work with their colleagues to revise school policies and procedures on dealing with pupils with epilepsy. The training package was developed and delivered by the NCYPE’s Childhood Epilepsy Information Service. Topics covered included:
- epilepsy and types of seizures
- the effects of epilepsy on memory, learning and behaviour
- epilepsy medication and side effects
- stigma and bullying
- dealing with seizures at school
- the importance of liaising with parents and health professionals
- strategies to support pupils with epilepsy.
As a direct result of the pilot programme, three young lives have already been changed for the better. Two young people have been referred for assessment while, in another case, a staff member attended a consultant’s appointment with a pupil who has epilepsy. The extra information they provided led to a change in medication.
One school involved in the pilot commented: “The students with epilepsy are explaining to the others how it affects them and how they feel when they’re recovering. This idea came from talking to students after the course, which I thought was a brilliant idea. Who better to answer questions than the person who experiences it?”
On average, every primary school will have at least one child with epilepsy and every secondary school will have as many as five pupils with the condition. Champions for Childhood Epilepsy campaign director and NCYPE chief executive, David Ford said: “Despite huge medical advances being made in recent years, epilepsy is still very much misunderstood. It’s a fact that services in education and health are simply not good enough. We aim to work with decision-makers to raise awareness of epilepsy and change lives – as happened in our pilot project.”
“If the pilot phase of our campaign, which covered a small proportion of young people with epilepsy, can change three young lives, imagine what it could achieve across the country.”