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Credit: schoolnewsnetwork.org
Credit: schoolnewsnetwork.org

German and Austrian unions call for more education support personnel specialised in health issues

published 2021-03-16 updated 2021-03-17

While the COVID-19 crisis is still raging, the Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst (GÖD) of Austria and the German Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) have pointed out that an increasing number of children with chronic illnesses are attending schools. The unions have urged their respective public authorities to hire more health professionals and to deploy them nationwide in educational settings.

GÖD: Relief needed for teachers

“We are seeing more and more children with chronic illnesses in schools,” noted GÖD federal president Paul Kimberger.

This was due, “on the one hand, because more children are or will become chronically ill overall and, on the other hand, because, for example, more and more children with physical impairments are being taught in mainstream schools, due to increasing inclusiveness”. 

However, adequate medical care on site is not guaranteed for those children with health issues. 

In addition, he warned that teachers who assist with drug administration sometimes find themselves “in dangerous grey areas”. Teachers are taking on tasks that are not core pedagogical responsibilities, while being subject to constantly increasing demands, Kimberger added.

“That is why we urgently need relief from medically trained staff in schools,” he concluded.

VBE: Politicians’ ongoing failure to act 

In the joint statement, VBE Federal Chairman Udo Beckmann joined with his Austrian counterpart’s position. He insisted that there are additional support options: “School health professionals can also be called in to help in acute cases and quickly arrange everything, as necessary. In addition, they would be ideal partners on site, especially in times of a pandemic: doing quick tests, measuring fever, doing prevention work - all of these could be tasks for school health professionals.”

However, he stressed that politicians in Germany have failed to act in this matter, even though VBE has been campaigning for this for the last four years.

Successful pilot projects showed positive health impact of support 

Beckmann added that “it would be an important building block for sustainable school infrastructures to implement, nationwide in Germany and Austria, the successful pilot projects from Brandenburg and Hesse.”

These pilot projects have shown improved mental and physical health for all those involved, a higher level of health knowledge amongst the school community and family members, and better networking with medical institutions. 

In addition, responsibilities concerning health issues were shared in schools, with teachers relieved of additional responsibilities, which led to a positive impact on their personal health.

GÖD and VBE’s joint declaration, emphasising the positive effects of health specialists on the whole school community, can be read (in German) here.