School protest over medicines

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TEACHING assistants have voted to take industrial action at a Sheffield special school this week in a row over who should administer food and medication to pupils.

The staff at Talbot School, Newfield, who are members of trade union Unison, fear they will be forced to start performing the duties, which some of them currently offer to do on a voluntary basis.

The teaching assistants have voted for industrial action short of a strike on Thursday, when they will all refuse to administer food or medication to youngsters.

The task will be left to teachers, who are qualified, to perform the duties.

Talbot School said the union has misunderstood its plans and that teaching assistants will be asked to help pupils only with feeding tubes.

Lisa Smith, convenor for education at Sheffield Unison, said: “There have always been enough teaching assistants who have volunteered to help with these jobs. The problem is Talbot wants to make it a compulsory part of duties when not all staff feel comfortable or competent.”

Ms Smith said volunteers among the 30 teaching assistants at Talbot perform duties ranging from feeding children using tubes to administering injections for life-threatening anaphylactic allergic reactions.

She said: “We believe that by making it compulsory for all teaching assistants to perform these duties, it may put children’s lives at risk.

“Staff are getting no extra money for the work, whereas teachers receive extra payments of £2,000 to £4,000 per year.”

Unison fears the practice of making it compulsory for teaching assistants to administer medication or ensure youngsters using tubes are fed may be introduced at all schools across the city.

Talbot School said teaching assistants will not be expected to administer medication.

Headteacher Judith Smith said: “The need to provide personal care, including feeding, to all our young people has already been taken into account in people’s job descriptions as part of the council-wide pay and grading review.

“Tube feeding is about eating and should not be confused with administering medicines, which we have not required our staff to do.”