SCHOOLS are failing children with chronic health conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and putting their education at risk, it has been claimed.
Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people, Tam Baillie, said it was a “matter of urgency” that new guidance be produced for teachers.
Research published yesterday by the commissioner showed many schools lack knowledge and understanding of the healthcare needs of pupils with conditions including anaphylaxis (serious allergic reactions) and epilepsy.
Mr Baillie said: “Our research has revealed that education authorities are unclear about their legal duties to children with long-term health conditions and there is a great deal of confusion from authority to authority.
“Practice is inconsistent and, in some cases, poor and there is confusion around policy and the law. The result of all of this is that some children with health conditions are losing out on their education.” He added: “While the government has committed to updating the guidance by 2014, to reflect current policy and legislation, this date is far too late.
“The guidance must be amended as soon as possible to reflect the law, so that children with health conditions get the education that is their right.”
While the research found many schools to be getting it right, it also found “considerable variations” in practice across local authorities and a lack of knowledge and understanding of pupils’ healthcare needs.
The research comprised Freedom of Information requests to councils and focus groups, as well as a survey of parents and carers, and an online survey of 300 schools across Scotland.
The researchers concluded there is a need for new guidance on the administration of medicines and healthcare procedures in schools. There is also a need for greater consistency in preparing and reviewing individual healthcare plans, and involving children in this.
The researchers made a number of recommendations, including the need to involve children and young people in developing good practice, to review staff training and for schools to share information about common conditions.
The commissioner has now established a working group to take forward the recommendations. This group will make formal recommendations to Scottish Government later this year.
Earlier this year, the family of a child with diabetes won a landmark ruling which saw a local authority criticised for failing to provide adequate support.
Callum Wyper, seven, a pupil at Dykehead Primary School in Shotts, requires support during the school day to manage his diabetes. Due to a lack of provision by the education authority, he missed nearly two months of classes between 2012 and 2013.