Personal care of pupils

ATL often receives enquiries from members about what their responsibilities are when pupils wet or soil themselves in class, and what schools are required to do if a staff member does help a pupil change their clothes.

Some school staff have the duty of administering personal care - such as helping pupils who are wet or who soil themselves in class to change their clothes - written into their job descriptions.

However, if there is nothing in your job description or contract of employment about administering personal care in helping a pupil to change their clothing, then there should not be an assumption that you will undertake these duties. In these circumstances, staff who assist pupils in changing should be treated as volunteers.

ATL members should make it clear to their headteachers that they are assisting pupils as volunteers, and that their actions should not be regarded as a contractual obligation. The same principle applies to those who administer medication to pupils.

Additionally, under no circumstances should staff be expected to potty train children, unless this expectation is specifically included in the job description by agreement. ATL members are reporting an increasing number of four- and five-year-olds starting school without having been potty trained. Where this occurs, members should report the matter to their line manager, and the school should then take appropriate action.

Support from the school

If there is a contractual requirement or someone agrees to help a pupil change clothes voluntarily then there are a number of things that schools are required to do:

  • obtain written permission from all parents that they accept such procedure

  • have a clear policy, understood and accepted by staff, parents and pupils, that provides an agreed basis for ensuring pupils receive proper personal care and support when at school

  • provide appropriate information and training for staff on issues such as personal hygiene and provide clear written guidelines on how pupils should be assisted at such times

  • ensure that when pupils are helped to change clothes, there is more than one adult present, who should preferably be of the same sex as the pupil

  • be aware of, and comply with, appropriate health and safety procedures and risk assessment

  • provide protective clothing, eg plastic gloves/aprons

  • ensure that insurance policies provide appropriate cover

  • consult with social services departments before changing pupils who are on the child protection register or whenever any social services children's teams are involved

  • seek advice on potential health issues from NHS Trusts who provide a school health service.

For pupils with special educational needs where more general development delay and learning difficulties maybe involved, schools should take into account the specific needs of individual pupils and ensure that staff are aware of these.

Need further advice?

Your first point of contact is your ATL rep in your school or college. Your local ATL branch is also available to help with queries, or you can contact ATL's member advisors on tel: 020 7930 6441 or email us. Please have your membership number to hand when telephoning and include it with any correspondence - this will help us to answer your query more quickly.

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