Mythbusting for National Epilepsy Week - day 6 - working in education
Myth: People with epilepsy should not become nursery nurses, teachers, or lecturers
Fact: There should be no barriers for people with epilepsy wanting to work in these professions
Working in education
People with epilepsy can work in education and with children in a wide variety of roles. This includes work as a nursery nurse, classroom assistant, class teacher, head teacher, tutor and lecturer. Epilepsy does not prohibit people from working with children. However, we are aware of people who have faced barriers in getting the training and support they need for career in teaching.
People with epilepsy can and do, work in the nursery nursing, teaching and learning professions. Epilepsy itself is not an automatic barrier to working in these careers or accessing relevant training and work placements. To refuse a person employment or training justbecause of their epilepsy could be disability discrimination and unlawful. Decisions on fitness to teach or practice must be made on an individual basis.
However, to work as a teacher a person must meet the Secretary of State’s requirement for health and physical capacity to teach.
Occasionally we are contacted by employers wanting more information about epilepsy. Their concern is about the health and welfare of the person with epilepsy, and the students in their care. To support a person to carry out their duties safely, risk assessments, re-definition of role and reasonable adjustments might be needed. Further information about these adjustments can be found in our nursery nursing, teaching and lecturing policy statement (add link).
Teacher training – Rob Wilks
Rob Wilks worked in teaching for almost 30 years. He told us about his experience: “I was very fortunate to survive in teaching for such a long time. Initially I only disclosed that which I felt was really necessary. With time I grew in confidence and after about 10 years in the profession I became quite open about things.
“What counted was that my most professional headteachers, colleagues and the pupils saw me as a person first and someone with epilepsy second. I had simple partial and complex focal seizures occasionally whilst in school, and pupils and other teachers witnessed them. Fortunately it caused little concern probably because they knew what to expect. The children in my class who knew I had epilepsy did not seem bothered when I had a seizure. They were certainly intrigued, but not worried.”
Challenging the myth
It’s important to help your employer or potential employers to understand your epilepsy. The health and welfare of you and your students is important to your employer. As a first step you should try and write as much as you can about your epilepsy in the application form or cover letter.
You could also arrange an appointment to talk to your employer about your epilepsy. At this appointment try to be honest and open about your epilepsy. You should describe your seizure type, seizure pattern and what happens before, during and after your seizure. It’s also a good idea to discuss any first aid requirements, and what help or support might be required in the classroom. Epilepsy Action can give you information about epilepsy and first aid that might help.
Depending on your support needs, your employer might want to talk about the job role. This will include possible ‘reasonable adjustments’ that can be made to the job. Reasonable adjustments can be made to help you to do the job effectively. They can also be put in place to help keep you, and the people in your care safe, should a seizure occur. Epilepsy Action’s position statement on nursery nursing, teaching and lecturing might help you both to think about possible reasonable adjustments.
Ultimately if you believe that you are being discriminated against, The Epilepsy Helpline can give you further advice. This might include making a note or keeping a diary that shows the dates that you were discriminated against. You should also write exactly what happened, what you did to try and resolve the issue, and how this made you feel. If you are a member of a union, you should contact your union for advice, help and support