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Managing expectations at school

Caring for a child with an allergy is complicated by the number of people who are responsible for the child’s wellbeing at different times, be it at home, at school or round at a friend’s house. It is important that everyone is informed of the expectations of the child, their parents and their school. This ensures all involved are aware of what they need to provide and are prepared to assist the child in successfully managing their food allergy.

What can be expected of the child who has the food allergy? It goes without saying that they need to be involved in their care, particularly as they get older. Their age will influence how much responsibility they can take and also the level of supervision they will be receiving. In general, they will need to:Allergen card

  • Understand the foods which they need to avoid
  • Understand that they can’t share food with their peers
  • Carry an adrenaline injector if necessary

Parents will play a huge role in managing children’s food allergies, from being the key link between the child, GPs and schools, to preparing the majority of the child’s food and looking after them when they are suffering with allergy symptoms. In order for schools to look after an allergic child, parents need to:

  • Arrange a meeting with the school – teachers, admin staff, school nurses – to discuss the child’s requirements and what extra measures they need in place. Include how they communicate this information to other staff e.g. bus drivers during schools trips.
  • Provide the school with any medications or adrenaline injectors the child has been prescribed.
  • Provide the school with ‘safe snacks’ that can be stored in the classroom in preparation for any events where food is provided that may contain allergens.

It is a legal requirement that schools make arrangements in supporting pupils with medical conditions including food allergies. Free school meals must also be provided for those children who are eligible. In the case of a child with a food allergy schools need to:

  • Work together with the parents to ensure adequate support is in place. The environment should be suitable for both the physical and psychological needs of the child.
  • Inform caterers of the allergy and ensure they have training to provide suitable food for allergic children.  CoeliacUK
  • Make sure policies are in place regarding the management of long term medical conditions, including emergency contacts and how requirements will be met both at school and on school trips etc.
  • Each child with a medical condition requires an individual healthcare plan (IHCP). This should be provided by the school and shared with parents. Coeliac UK has a template within their School Pack (https://www.coeliac.org.uk/document-library/1618-school-pack-for-schools/?return=/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/school-meals/).
  • Watch out for children with food allergies being excluded by classmates. Make it clear that this is not acceptable, and make sure all children can participate in activities. Food Freedom provides workshops for children to increase their understanding of food allergies in order to minimise bullying and increase equality.

Overall, communication, preparation and team work are essential for successful management of a child’s food allergy. Any schools that need some extra help in supporting children with food allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease can contact Food Freedom at info@food-freedom.co.uk to discuss a bespoke course which will ensure staff can meet expectations regarding allergies.

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