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Woolston Infant School staff refuse to give girl medical treatment for eczema

School says no to eczema treatment

Leah Johnston and mum Kerry Webb

Woolston Infant School in Southampton

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Education Reporter

SHE suffers from a skin condition that can be extremely painful.

At just five years old, Leah Johnston’s eczema is so severe she has to rub cream over her body four times a day.

Yet her school is refusing to help the youngster apply the cream to her back, which she cannot reach, because staff are not allowed to touch her.

The head teacher says it is “inappropriate” for staff to apply the medication, for child protection reasons.

Leah’s mum has described the decision as “crazy” and called for the school to show some common sense.

Leah’s eczema is so bad her skin would become cracked and infected without the regular treatment, prescribed by a specialist.

It means that once a day she needs to apply the cream while at school, which she can do, apart from an area on her back she can’t reach.

Although staff at Woolston Infant School say they are happy to supervise her doing it, they cannot help her apply the cream.

In a letter to Leah’s doctor, head teacher Julie Swanston said it would be “inappropriate”

for staff to apply the cream, due to child safeguarding policies.

But mum Kerry Webb, 24, from Woolston, Southampton, said the decision was “crazy”.

“Leah is five years old, she is really good at remembering to rub the cream in and is able to do it herself over her arms and legs and chest but she physically cannot reach her back. All I am asking for is a bit of common sense for them to just help with her back.

I can’t understand them saying they can’t touch her, it’s crazy. What happens if a child falls over or needs some other sort of treatment.

Would they not touch them too?”

Leah also suffers from asthma and needs to use inhalers at school every day – a process that is overseen by staff.

It has been suggested that a simple solution would be to have a second member of staff supervising as one applies the cream, a policy used at other schools when child protection is an issue.

National Eczema Society chief executive Margaret Cox said: “Unfortunately we do hear of such cases where schools have a ‘non-touch’ policy which is a serious problem for eczema sufferers who really do need this medication applied.

“I would call for a sensible approach here so that in such cases the rules could be relaxed to allow for the medication to be given.”

Head teacher Julie Swanston said: “There have never in the past been any issues or concerns from any parents, pupils or teachers in how we help to administer medication to children.

“In this particular case we have supervised the child putting on her medication and have been in regular communication with the child’s parents and doctor.

“In normal circumstances when administering things like creams we would either ask the parents to administer them or, like in this instance, we would help the child to administer it themselves under our supervision, as long as we get prior agreement from the child’s parents.

“I’m very sorry to hear there is some concern, and we will continue to ask the parents to come in and talk to us to see how we can address those concerns.”

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