Daughter with allergies failed on school residential

(29 Posts)
Mariekp Wed 22-May-13 21:02:54

Hi all,
I am looking for some advice on this matter and extremely grateful for any comments or advice. My 9 year old daughter has a nut and soya allergy and carries an epipen at all times as her condition can be life threatening. Her class recently went away on a 3 day residential. My husband and I looked on the website and it stated that all dietary needs were met, they dealt with all allergies on a regular basis etc. We spoke to our daughters deputy head teacher, who was attending the trip, and he confirmed that he had contacted the centre 3 times to confirm that her needs would be met and assured us that she would be well looked after.

She went and had a great time but when we asked her what the food was like she said there had been problems. On the first night my daughter asked the food server if the pizza was "safe" for her. The lady said that no and they had a special gluten free pizza for her. When my daughter replied that she wasn't allergic to gluten and she was nut and soya free she was told that the normal pizza 'should' be ok. Not very reassuring!
Sandwiches were for lunch and my daughter questioned if the bread contained soya so the deputy head took her to the kitchen to check with the cook who got on the phone to check and found out that the bread DID contain soya and would not be suitable. She was given a Mars bar which she also questioned and again this DID contain soya and was not safe.
I don't want to go on so will just say that there were further incidents that confirm that they had some how confused my daughters allergies for a child with coliac disease , gluten free, and on her return we spoke to the deputy head who confirmed that my daughters recount was indeed correct.

We called the centre and spoke to a manger who was very defensive and would not admit any fault on their part and said that we should have sorted the food out!! We then emailed the centre with a formal complaint.

They replied 6 days later and confirmed that mistakes were made and poor excuses as to why. He ended the email with the comment " I sincerely hope the experience does put you or your child off educationally valuable residential visits in the future"

Still feeling unsatisfied with this response, we printed both emails and took them into the school this morning. The deputy head called us within an hour and apologised and arranged to speak to us tomorrow.

My question is what would be a suitable and acceptable response to this matter? I feel hugely let down and angry that this has happened as I did not want my daughter to go on the trip but had as my daughter wanted to go and it would be a good experience for her, put my issues aside and put my trust in the school and the centre

Can anybody tell me the next stage that I may be able to take this matter and how I would go about doing that?

Thank you very much for reading this

WouldBeHarrietVane Wed 22-May-13 21:06:18

Sorry to hear this sad

I think you have the option of putting this before the board of governors and asking them to look at it.

Btw I'm sure you are very proud of your dd - she sounds very sensible and resourceful.

AnythingNotEverything Wed 22-May-13 21:06:23

I've no advice, but think you should be really proud that your daughter was so responsible.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:07:13

I think from the sounds of things the first thing to remember is it isn't actually the school's fault (unless it turns out they told the centre she had a different allergy). I would be concerned that a residential place could make such a mess of something which can have very dangerous consequences.

I am not sure what I would expect as a response. I suppose I would want the centre to review their policy for checking allergies and how they deal with them, someone should be a responsible sign off for it somehow.

did you have to complete an information form from the centre before she went or one from the school?

WouldBeHarrietVane Wed 22-May-13 21:09:33

But even if it wasn't the school's fault, now they know the centre cannot be trusted with allergies they need to consider whether children should go there again in future.

HotheadPaisan Wed 22-May-13 21:14:22

School is in loco parentis though, it was their responsibility primarily.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:18:12

yes thats a good point Wouldbeharrietvane.

I think you need to treat it as 2 different things.

first there is the safeguarding process from the residential place and second (or the other way round) there is the process from the school.

So they should BOTH have a system of a form to complete (even if it means parents doing 2 separate ones) listing allergies, what needs to be taken into account, medical conditions etc and both should have a member of staff for whom this is a part of their job and they have to sign off on each case. So from the school's point of view they would need to have a process in place that the trip leader will be aware of any specific individual requirements and will be responsible for discussing them with the residential place, they should log all these to cover themselves presumably, and when they arrive at the place they should double check with the named responsible person there that it has all been put in place. It would seem appropriate to include the child in this as they are the one who is the expert at the end of the day. If there is a problem then it is up to the staff at both places to correct it. Any problems should be logged and reported back to parents.

The school are the ones you put your trust into as you didn't know or choose the residential place but they have passed on to the residential place.

really you want both to review their processes and set in place new ones which are more rigorous. This would hopefully prevent similar situations happening again both on any of your school's trips anywhere and also for any other child staying at this residential place.

Smartiepants79 Wed 22-May-13 21:18:43

Do your concerns lie with the school or the centre?
It sounds more like it was an issue with the centre kitchens.
What would make you feel better?
An apology? Concrete plans for better awareness training? Not quite sure what you are looking for here.
Personally a strongly worded letter of complaint to the relevant people and a suggestion that the school look at alternatives for next year.
Please don't let this put you off sending your DD away, these are invaluable life experiences. She handled it brilliantly and next time would be even more aware of potential problems.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:19:10

is there any sort of inspecting body for residential places? kind of an ofsted type thing?

if so you could alert them and ask them to investigate.

Hassled Wed 22-May-13 21:19:30

Agree that I don't really see the school as being as fault, and it sounds like the DHT was very helpful (although it probably is worth confirming that he/she definitely was correct in what they told the centre ahead of the visit), but the point about whether the school would use the centre again is a very good one. I'd hope they wouldn't touch them again with a bargepole.

This is the DfE guidance on H&S in Educational Visits, and this is the website for the Outdoor Education Advisors Panel - both might be useful.

Nerfmother Wed 22-May-13 21:19:32

I don't know what you are now looking for? Financial 'compensation' or a review of policy. If you know what you want, ask for it. You have had apologies from both places, no lasting damage has been done, so you need to decide what outcome you are seeking.

OldBeanbagz Wed 22-May-13 21:28:31

Really sorry for your DD's experiences on what should have been a great experience for her.

I'm truly amazed that the accompanying teacher did not sort this out at the time. Surely if there was a problem on day 1, he/she could have intervened to ensure that the staff were catering for your DD's allergies?

I would expect the centre to address the problems fully and detail how they were going to safeguard against things like this in the future. If it's a council run centre i would be report them to the LEA.

I assume it was a paid for trip, in which case I’d also be asking for financial compensation since your DD's needs were not met. Providing a Mars bar for lunch is simply not adequate.

Mariekp Wed 22-May-13 21:30:28

I know the school wasn't to blame and her allergies were confirmed by the school. It was the centre that was at fault and I was just looking for advice on what I would be within my rights to ask for. I want them to take full responsibility and for this to never happen to another child ever again. As my husband said, what if my daughter was only 5 and not fully aware of what she could or could not eat.
And Nerfmother, no looking not financial compensation. Not everybody is after compensation. I am concerned about my daughter

Nerfmother Wed 22-May-13 21:32:54

What I was trying to get at, was what are you wanting the outcome to be? Then you will know who and how to complain to, rather than starting out from an unsure position.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:33:51

ok so you know the school passed on the correct details so are happy with their policies, in which case I think you would want the school to help you report the centre to whoever deals with that kind of thing and ask for a review of their policies.

Like you say it could have been a younger child or a child with special needs as well who wouldn't have handled the situation as maturely as your daughter did and allergies can be life threatening.

Notcontent Wed 22-May-13 21:34:31

Well, the centre was pretty hopeless by the sound of it, but the teachers should have taken control of the situation on the first day.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 21:36:31

It might also be worth next time she goes on a trip equipping her with some allergy bread (I am assuming it is normally possible to get the long life stuff like the gluten free bread - I remember having to get written permission from customs on a South Pacific Island to take my own gluten free bread onto the island as I was pretty certain I wouldn't be able to get any there but I was an adult then). THEN should a problem arise SHE and you know she will at least most definitely have something to eat. You shouldn't have to but...

Mariekp Wed 22-May-13 21:37:18

We want this to never happen to anybody's child ever again and have found some of these comments extremely helpful, changing policies etc and will put them forward when we speak to the deputy head tomorrow. Thank you for your reply :-)

KarenHL Wed 22-May-13 21:39:31

Although I don't want to give you more to do - it might be worth seeing if this is something trading standards, or the HSE might deal with too.

Before anyone pounces on me and says I'm unreasonable, I'm not. A dear friend at Uni with a nut allergy died in our first semester. She bought a sandwich at a local café and explained she was nut allergic and checked to see if the ingredients were nut free. They were, so she thought she was safe. Unfortunately the fuckwit person who made the sandwich used a knife previously used to make a peanut butter sandwich. that was enough to trigger an anaphylactic attack.

Don't let the centre fob you off. Your daughter was fortunate to be ok. As you say, what would have happened if she was too little to know if it was safe? My DD has an intolerance to milk - I am so lucky that it isn't more serious (only raging eczema, not anything worse).

mummytime Wed 22-May-13 21:39:37

I think you need to start by making a formal written complaint to the school and governors, stating what happened and how this was failing to safeguard your daughter.
Then if the centre is part of a group eg. Outward Bound or PGL, I would also complain to the group head office. If not I would complain to the local Environmental Health team (not sure if they are the right people but I'm sure they can re-direct you if they are not).

OldBeanbagz Wed 22-May-13 21:41:04

Like i said before i'm amazed that the teacher with them didn't do anything at the time.

I've been on trips with my DS's class and had a nut allergic girl in my group. It was a good job i was watching them closely at lunchtime as she was about to swop packed lunches with another girl (she was 6 at the time)

And i know you're not looking for financial compensation, i'm not suggesting you sue but if you've paid for meals that your daughter wasn't able to eat because of their mistakes then you should at least expect a small 'refund'.

I really hope you manage to get this settled and you won't let it put you off your DD going away on residentials again. I have a very close friend who's DD has multiple allergies and i know it's difficult enough without the carelessness of others!

admission Wed 22-May-13 22:10:12

The question that you need to be asking of the school is whether their risk assessment of the trip was carried out and why when this was a well documented and known "risk" there was a complete failure to understand the problem and correct it. I would have expected this to have been the subject of a conversation between the school and the centre before the trip to ensure that this allergy could be catered for.
It is the school's responsibility to sort this out and the correct process for you to make sure that this is taken seriously is to make a formal written complaint to the school.
I am not saying that the whole incident is the school's fault, obviously the centre has a lot of explaining to do and by making a formal complaint to the school, they will obviously put pressure on the centre to explain their complete lack of understanding of the allergy.

notapizzaeater Wed 22-May-13 22:19:56

That's such a shame for our daughter. Extra stress not needed.

My ds has just me back from a 3 day residential, he is coeliac - I was petrified but i phoned the centre the week before to make sure they had his allergies down and they reassured me. On the first day a chef introduced herself to him and looked after him at every mealtime. I couldn't fault them, he's really sensitive and was fine. So much so we sent a thank you letter.

For ref he was at JCA

Shallishanti Wed 22-May-13 22:31:41

really I would be expecting the school not to use the centre again, it sounds like a failure of their staff, not just their policies, as the people serving the food seemed vague about what food was appropriate for your daughter even though they knew she had special requirements. Only if the centre could demonstrate both robust policies AND suitably qualified/retrained staff would I be inclined to use them again. As notapizzaeater says, it is perfectly possible to accommodate special diets.
And your daughter sounds very sensible, that must be a great relief to you.

Mariekp Thu 23-May-13 00:03:31

I would like to thank you all for your replies. You have helped myself and husband immensely and made our minds clearer. We are now ready for tomorrow's meeting and are clear with what we asking for. Your help and advice has much appreciated as it has given us an excellent idea as to how to progress.

Many thanks again to everybody who replied

Marie :-)

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