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Knowledge Base » Safeguarding » Addressing Parent Concerns about Medication Administration in Schools

Addressing Parent Concerns about Medication Administration in Schools

Children spend at least six hours of their weekdays at school during term time. As such, parents and carers want to feel that the safety and wellbeing of their children is the primary focus of schools. 

Many children require routine medication on a daily basis, either for health issues or allergies. Some children have medical conditions that mean they require an Individual Healthcare Plan (IHCP), which is a collaborative document that outlines the steps a school needs to take to support a pupil’s healthcare needs during the school day. 

For the parents of children who need additional support with medical needs or medication, transparency around the procedures for the administration of medicine in schools is often a fundamental concern. 

Common parent concerns

Generally, most parents and carers will be able to manage their children’s medical needs at home, either before or after school hours. Some children, however, may require routine medical care or medication on a daily basis in school. This could be if they are living with or managing certain conditions (both physical and mental) such as a heart condition, asthma, ADHD or diabetes.

In the UK, allergies are becoming increasingly common with now almost 50% of children diagnosed with one or more allergies. Of these, 5-8% have a diagnosed food allergy and may require potentially life-saving medication if they come into contact with an allergen. Many children with allergies will need to keep medication in school in case of an allergic reaction. This may include:

  • Antihistamines (tablets or oral solutions)
  • Inhalers
  • Autoinjectors (such as EpiPens)

Additionally, some children may require short-term medication at school, such as antibiotics if they are getting over an infection. 

Parents may have various concerns when it comes to the administration of medication in schools. These concerns include safety, accuracy, communication and privacy issues. These might include:

  • Where the medication is stored – is the medicine temperature dependent and needs to be in the fridge? Is the medicine kept in a locked cupboard or is it easily accessible?
  • How medication is stored – is it stored as per instruction? How are medicines grouped or separated? Who has permission to access it?
  • Labelling – it is vital that medication is never mixed up and that the correct pupil receives the correct medication at the correct dosage. Failure to comply with this could prove fatal.
  • Who is administering the medicine – what training or certification do they have? Is it always the same individual responsible for giving children their medicine?
  • Paperwork – has all of the relevant documentation been signed?
  • Emergency protocol – in the unlikely event of an emergency, parents of children who require routine medication may need extra reassurance that emergency procedures are in place.
  • Confidentiality concerns – what is the school’s privacy policy, who has access to sensitive information and how is it used or stored?

The handling of medication in schools may be controlled by the school’s individual protocols and policies and may also be covered by legislation. Ensuring that schools have proper policies and protocols in place and that they communicate them effectively, can help alleviate parental concerns and promote a safe and secure environment for students. 

Administering medication in school

School policies and protocols

Statutory guidance is available to all institutions (such as state schools, academies, pupil referral units) online, alongside templates that provide the information required to support children with medical conditions at school. This includes sample wording to:

  • Collaborate with parents regarding a pupil’s individual healthcare plan
  • Request parental consent to administer medication
  • Keep records of medication that is administered to children
  • Keep records about staff training in relation to the administration of medication at school

Schools must act in accordance with the law regarding the administration of medicine to pupils. When thinking about how to handle medication in the school setting, schools should consider:

  • How they receive and store medication at school
  • How often they check the expiry dates on medicine
  • How they administer or support the administration of medication at school
  • How they record medication that is administered
  • How they keep records of accidents or incidents
  • How they monitor reactions, side effects or anything else related to medication at school

In response to the above, school leaders need to carefully consider how they can most effectively communicate relevant information to parents/carers, how they keep them updated of any changes and how they might address complaints or concerns.

Schools are only able to administer medication when a consent form has been completed and signed. 

A template for a consent form for schools to administer medication looks as follows:

Key legislation covers the administration of medication in school, such as:

  • Children and Families Act (2014).
  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974).
  • Misuse of Drugs Act (1971).
  • School Premises Regulations (2012).
  • Education Act (1996).

Schools have a duty under section 100 of the Children and Families Act to make reasonable arrangements to support all children at school who have medical conditions.

Under the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981, employers must provide first aid facilities (including a first aid kit) and a trained person to administer them. This will usually be outlined in the school’s Health and Safety policy. Schools and colleges are advised to include all pupils, as well as staff, in their first aid protocol. 

The minimum first aid provision for schools and colleges is:

  • A fully stocked first aid box that contains all the basics (bandages, plasters, gauze, gloves, etc.) and holding at least the minimum requirements suggested by HSE.
  • An appointed person/persons or designated first-aider(s) to take charge of first aid.
  • Information available to employees detailing the location of equipment, facilities and relevant personnel.

The school’s Health and Safety policy and any first aid information should be written in a clear and accessible way and available to any parents, carers or stakeholders who request to read it.

In addition to risk assessments and a Health and Safety policy, all schools are required to draft a Medication Policy. Minimally, the medication policy should include:

  • The parent/carer’s duty to inform school of any medical conditions
  • How these needs should be met/supported
  • How medication should be delivered and stored
  • How medication is accessed and by who (staff, pupils, etc.)
  • Any medication that is to be administered and the dose, frequency, etc.
  • Staff responsible for healthcare support and their training (including dates)
  • Record-keeping in relation to medication
  • Confidentiality/privacy information

As far as possible, schools may request that medical needs are managed outside of school hours. We know that this will not always be possible and this is why effective communication between school and home is key. 

In addition to the medication policy, paperwork signed by the parents/carers that authorises the school to administer medication to their child is vital. This ensures that parents are aware of, and consent to, the school’s role in managing their child’s medication and healthcare needs.

Additionally, schools need to consider how to effectively communicate information regarding:

  • Labelling – all medications must be provided to the school in their original, labelled containers. This helps to ensure that the school staff can accurately identify and administer the correct medication. Minimally, information must include the pupil’s name, name of medicine, dosage, method of administration, time/frequency, expiry date, side effects.
  • New medications – parents are responsible for providing new medications when current ones expire. This helps to ensure that students receive the correct medication and dosage throughout the school year. Schools need to manage how to best communicate this to parents to avoid confusion.
  • School policy regarding whether students are allowed to carry their own medications. This helps to prevent potential misuse or accidents involving medication.
  • Over the counter medication administration – how is this managed in school – is this allowed or is this best managed by parents at home?
  • Children carrying their own medication – is this allowed and if so what parameters are there? It would be highly advised for asthmatic children to always carry their own inhalers, for example.

Schools may need to conduct an additional risk assessment for how to administer medication on school trips, visits or residentials and contact the parents of any children with medical needs about this to gain their consent. 

Addressing parent concerns about medication adminstration

Transparency and communication

To create a safe and supportive environment for medication administration, it’s crucial for schools, parents and staff to work together and communicate openly. 

This can be achieved by: 

  • Encouraging parents and staff to share their concerns and ideas for improvement and acting on this feedback.
  • Establishing clear communication channels between parents, staff and school administrators.
  • Providing regular updates and training for staff on medication administration policies and procedures.
  • Encouraging parents to consult with healthcare professionals and the school to determine the best course of action for their child’s specific needs.
  • Transparent communication between schools and parents is essential in addressing concerns about medication administration; schools should consider how to utilise technology to help with this such as by sending out Google forms to easily collate responses to changes.
  • Schools can proactively address parent concerns by providing clear information and updates about their policies, procedures and staff training.
  • Lead from the top down – governing bodies and headteachers in schools need to be visible and actively taking responsibility for pupil health and wellbeing.

Training and certification

A school medication policy should list who is responsible for administering medicine. This might include:

  • Headteacher
  • Teachers
  • Teaching assistants
  • Support staff
  • School nurse

As it is vital to get consent from parents and pupils regarding administering medication, it is equally important to get consent from staff, as giving medication is a voluntary act by teachers and not a requirement. Staff should be competent and have received adequate training before giving medicine to any pupil. 

It is important that school leaders ensure any staff involved in medication administration are properly trained and certified. Schools are also required to have dedicated first-aiders that are adequately trained. Ensuring that any medication or first aid is administered by a competent person is crucial for the safety and wellbeing of students. 

Schools should support staff members to complete relevant training courses and obtain certification to administer medications and display these somewhere, such as the school office. Consider all additional training staff take such as first aid courses as a reason to celebrate – share photos on social media or the school website to demonstrate to parents that the school is committed to continuous learning and improvement. 

To reassure parents, schools need to remember to consistently communicate the efforts that they are making to maintain a safe space for students. The school’s efforts need to be visible to outsiders to be the most effective. 

Privacy and confidentiality

Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of students’ medical information is key during the medication administration process. Schools should adhere to legal and ethical considerations to safeguard the medical information of pupils. This might include administering medication in a safe, quiet space away from other students or not announcing why a student is being taken out of class when it is time for their medicine.

Any information that is stored electronically for school records (including that relating to medical conditions or healthcare in school) needs to be in line with the school’s privacy policy and/or General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Policy, meaning that records should not be kept longer than necessary.

Additionally, schools should ensure that steps are taken to limit the chances of records being accessed during a cyber attack (such as using an up-to-date Firewall) and that only authorised personnel can access records and health information that the school holds about students. Parents should be informed immediately about any breaches or changes to the school’s privacy policy.

Parent involvement

Parents play a crucial role in ensuring their child’s safety and wellbeing during medication administration. They can be involved in the process by schools requesting that they:

  • Provide accurate and up-to-date information about their child’s medical needs and medication requirements.
  • Communicate with school staff about any changes or concerns regarding their child’s medication.
  • Work collaboratively with the school to develop and implement appropriate medication administration plans or IHCPs.

There are various ways the school office can keep in touch with parents about medication in schools, including:

  • General emails – these emails would go out to all of the parents and carers in the system and could contain general reminders about medication in school.
  • Targeted emails – these emails would only be sent to students who were identified in the system as having medication that is kept on school premises and could contain information that is relevant to them and details of anything that needs actioning (such as new paperwork required by the office).
  • School newsletter – information about medication or any changes to how it is handled and administered in school could be mentioned in the school newsletter that is sent out each week.
  • Social media – to increase reach, if the school has a social media page they can post information on it. This may be suitable for reminders such as ‘Please remember to collect your child’s medication from the office at the end of term’ or periodic reminders to replace expired medication rather than anything more sensitive.
  • Phone calls – emails and newsletter items can often be missed or overlooked. A phone call made directly to a parent is often the best way to discuss any matters relating to medication at school.
  • Letter – the school could consider sending a letter addressed to their parent or carer home with the child. Keep in mind that these may get lost in the bottom of a bookbag for weeks! Schools could consider requesting a signed slip to be returned acknowledging the letter and keep a record of this, chasing it up if they do not receive the signed slip within a reasonable timeframe.
  • School website – the school website can be used to host blogs or items relating to medication in school as well as celebrate the school’s commitment to health and safety. This might include sharing photos from staff attending first aid workshops or certificates when a school employee gains a new certification!
medication adminstration in schools

Conclusion

By acknowledging and addressing common parent concerns, implementing effective policies and protocols, and fostering transparent communication, schools can create a safe and secure environment for medication administration. 

Parents should also actively engage with their child’s school to ensure that their child’s medical needs are met, and their privacy is protected. Communication from both sides should always be clear, transparent and constructive. 

Caring for our children’s health is vital and as we address parental concerns around medication in schools, children should always be at the centre of the debate. Only an effective collaboration between schools and parents can provide a supportive and nurturing environment for students with any additional needs. 

Schools should remain proactive and parents reassured that the school is compliant and their children’s medical needs are being met at all times. 

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About the author

Vicky Miller

Vicky Miller

Vicky has a BA Hons Degree in Professional Writing. She has spent several years creating B2B content and writing informative articles and online guides for clients within the fields of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, recruitment, education and training. Outside of work she enjoys yoga, world cinema and listening to fiction podcasts.



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