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some questions about dealing with allergies in primary schools(6 Posts)
DS's is 4 years old and his current preschool deals with his allergies really well. However, I now have to choose a primary school for next year. From my experiences of working as a TA, I have a few concerns...
How do your children's schools deal with the following?:
- Who is trained to recognise and deal with/treat an allergic reaction? Is is just the class teacher, or should it be ALL staff, including support staff, lunchtime and supervisors? (My experience is that lunchtime supervisors have little training or contact with the other staff in the school.)
- Where is the medication kept? Is it reasonable to expect it to travel from classroom to classroom when children move around for different activities, or is it kept in a secure central location? Does it go out into the playground? (As a temporary/supply TA, I once raced desperately all over the school looking for the one person who could unlock the cupboard in which a small boy's asthma inhaler was kept...)
- What happens at lunchtimes? Do your DCs have support at lunchtimes (e.g. somebody to sit next to them or at least to keep a close eye on them during lunchtimes?)
- How do the school ensure that supply staff are made aware of your DCs allergies and are able to minimise risk / recognise and treat a reaction?
Sorry to ask so many questions.
In my school, a severely allergic (or diabetic) child would be known to all staff (have their photo on the staff room notice board as well as having a verbal instruction from the Senco in the bengining of the year Inset period.
The kitchen staff would be particularly informed.
We keep all medication in the school office. The class teacher will also keep medication, eg inhalers, epipens and piraton. If a child has a particularly brittle need, then a bag would follow them around, which they would become responsible for once old enough.
If a child has unique problems, we value the parent or a nurse coming into school to instruct all relevant staff.
Hi greenbananas my DS is 5 and now in year 1 but I vividly remember feeling just like you are now before he started school. We have been very lucky in that the school have been fantastic about his allergies. My fear was that the staff would react in one of 2 ways, either not his allergies seriously enough (this was my greatest fear) or be so worried that they would be ringing me every time he had the slightest itch. Thankfully, neither of these happened.
The most important step for us was arranging a meeting with the Head, the class teacher, classroom assistant and school nurse to talk about his allergies. They took me very seriously and asked questions about what his reactions looked like so they knew what to look out for. I explained that he is touch allergic to some of his allergens and my concerns about milk time (in Wales, children still have free milk in schools) and lunch. They arranged for DS and a couple of other children who don't like milk to sit in a different area of the classroom at milk time. They are careful about wiping up any spills quickly. They also assigned one of the classroom assistants to keep an eye on him at lunchtime. He sits on the end of one of the tables next to one of his best friends who knows about his allergies and the assistant makes sure nobody gives him any food or touches his lunch etc. He even has school dinners once a week after a meeting with the dietician and canteen staff - he loves it (even though I was a nervous wreck the first few months!).
His medication is kept in the medical room in the school office but it is a very small school so there would never be a problem to get it quickly. If it was a much bigger site then I think I would want it to move around the school with him if poss or otherwise have 2 sets, one centrally and one in the classroom. All staff have epi-pen training on a regular basis and everyone in the school knows DS and his allergies (but as I said, it's a small school). His photo is on the board in the office and the canteen. He also wears his allergy strap every day.
Supply staff are given a folder containing details of any medical conditions in the class plus the classroom assistants inform them.
If the teacher is planning on doing an activity involving food, she speaks to me beforehand so that I can arrange alternative ingredients for DS. He is then able to join in safely (they do put him on a separate table to avoid cross contamination).
It is a very scary step but I did feel much better once I'd spoken to the staff. They reassured me that they were taking his allergies seriously and it was a good way of establishing communication links between us and the school. So far we haven't had any major reactions, just the odd case of hives/itching (which is normal for DS) where the school have given him Piriton, kept an eye on him and rung me to let me know. I haven't had to pick him up early at all as his reactions have all responded to Piriton.
freefrommum that's hugely reassuring and helpful in thinking about what a really good plan might look like
Thank you also Knowsabitabouteducation - it's good to know that medication is allowed to follow a child around the school if necessary, and that parental input is welcomed.
And yes, thank you freefrommum that is just so reassuring!!! It's wonderful that your DS's school are dealing with his allergies so well, and it does give me more hope. In particular, I'm highly relieved to know that all staff are epipen trained (including TAs, office staff and lunchtime supervisors?) and that supply staff are given a folder with details of medical conditions (this could be tucked inside the register so that they can't miss it?) Having done a bit of supply TA work myself, one of my main worries was about supply staff not being made aware of DS's allergies. I know that supply staff often arrive at very short notice, not knowing any of the children, and that just having a poster on the staffroom wall would not be sufficient - they might not even notice it if they were very busy or rushed and, even if they did, it would be hard for them to link the photo with one particular child in a sea of strange faces.
Not all children get free milk in our local schools, but there is a high percentage of children who are entitled to free milk because of low income/parents on benefits, so it's good to know that your DS's school are managing the milk-time situation well. It sounds similar to what happens at DS's preschool - children are asked if they want milk or water wth their snack, and DS always sits on the water table next to a member of staff.
Does your DS's school get any extra funding for a classroom assistant to sit with him at lunchtime?
I agree completely that small schools are much, much more likely to deal with this well. There is a big infant school (250ish) just a one-minute walk from where we live - but I have worked there as a floating TA and lunchtime supervisor and I am not at all confident that DS would be safe in their hands. My first choice for DS is now definitely going to be the little CofE primary school about 20 mins walk away.
I'm not sure about lunchtime supervisors being epi-pen trained but TAs definitely are. As far as I know the school doesn't receive extra funding for TA to keep an eye on him at lunchtime. I believe canteen duty was always part of her contract so she is in there every lunchtime anyway but when DS started they asked her to be responsible for watching him in particular.
Personally, I think you're right to choose a smaller school if at all possible as it really does make a difference. Everyone in the school knows my DS, all the staff and all the pupils! The most important step is to get that meeting with the head, school nurse etc so that you can go through all your concerns. I made a list of things I wanted to raise beforehand and went through them all.
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