Seanad debates

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Commencement Matters

Occupational First Aid

10:30 am

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Craughwell for raising this issue and for welcoming me here as Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for higher education. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, has asked me to take this Commencement matter.

The Senator did mention I was a former school principal and yes our teachers would have been trained up voluntarily if they wanted to be, as would SNAs. That would have happened in the school and I am very aware that it does happen regularly but it is an ad hocsystem.

The Department promotes the quality of teaching and learning through the provision of quality teacher training programmes, continuing professional development and support for principals and teachers in a range of pedagogical, curricular and educational areas. This is done through initial teacher education programmes, education centres and support services for teachers at primary and post-primary level.

Under the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the board of management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. The board of management of each school is responsible for the care and safety of all of the students in its school and care and safety should be at the centre of all policy and practices. Schools are required to take all reasonable precautions to provide training for teachers to ensure the safety and welfare of their pupils. The Health and Safety Authority, HSA, advises that, by law, employers and those who control workplaces to any extent, must identify hazards in the workplaces under their control and assess the risk presented by the hazards.

Employers must write down the risks and what to do about them. This is known as risk assessment. The aim of risk assessment is to reduce the risk of injury and illness associated with work. The risk assessment will form part of the employer’s safety statement.The safety, health and welfare at work general application regulations 2007 set out the first aid requirements for workplaces as follows:

Employers have a duty to provide first-aid equipment at all places of work where working conditions require it. Depending on the size or specific hazard (or both) of the place of work, trained occupational first-aiders must also be provided. Apart from some exceptions, first-aid rooms must be provided where appropriate. Information must also be provided to employees as regards the first-aid facilities and arrangements in place.

It is important that the school management authority requests parents to ensure that the school is made aware of any medical condition suffered by any student attending. Where the school is

aware of potential difficulties that may arise as a consequence of a medical condition suffered by one or more students, it may be possible for the management authorities, working in conjunction

with parents, teachers and children, to put preventative measures in place to lessen the possibility of any difficulties arising or to ensure that if a student suffers from an illness requiring, for

example, the administration of medication, that appropriate treatment is available.

The administration of medicines in primary schools is the subject of an agreement between the Irish National Teachers Organisation, INTO, and the organisation representing school management at primary level. While this agreement specifies that no teacher can be required to administer medicine or drugs to pupils, it also sets out procedures that must be followed where teachers agree to do so. The position is that either the parents of the child make themselves available to administer medication as required or, where they wish the staff in the school to administer it, they should indemnify the school.. The Department cannot direct any member of the board of management or the teaching staff of a school to administer medical treatment to pupils, including actions or procedures which are normally carried out by medical professionals such as doctors and nurses. The organisation of training in the administration of medicines is a matter for the board of management and my Department has no plans for future training programmes in this area.

Where a child requires adult assistance in the administration of medicine and where the extent of assistance required would overly disrupt normal teaching time, SNA support may be allocated for this purpose. It is a matter for the board of management to ensure that SNAs are in a position to effectively meet the care needs of students for whom SNA support has been allocated in the school when appointing an SNA. Where specific training is required, the board of management should liaise with the Health Service Executive, HSE, in order to ensure that the HSE provides guidance and training that enables the SNA to meet the care needs of the pupil in an appropriate manner. It is a matter for individual school authorities to make such arrangements locally.

It is my Department’s experience that once the matter has been discussed in detail with the board of management and staff of a school and once all parties are clear as to the procedures to be

followed, arrangements can normally be made to assist the administration of first aid or medicine. The NCSE is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the SNA scheme. In response to a progress report from the NCSE on the comprehensive assessment, the NCSE was requested to establish a working group comprising relevant stakeholders to assist in proposing a better model for providing care supports so as to provide better outcomes for students with special educational needs who have additional care needs. This working group, which is chaired by Mr. Eamon Stack, chairperson of the NCSE, has commenced its work. That work will run in tandem with the completion of the overall comprehensive review of the SNA scheme. It is intended that the reports of the working group and of the review will be completed by the end of March 2018.


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