LESSONS IN FOOD ALLERGY: THE FINDINGS OF THE ALLERGY TEAM’S TEACHER AND PARENT SURVEY

Teachers need more support to understand the scale of food allergy amongst their pupils and what procedures their schools have in place to support them, according to our survey of over 100 teachers.

The Allergy Team set out to gather first-hand accounts of what was happening in UK schools, following contact with numerous parents who felt their children weren’t being kept safe or that their school didn’t “get” food allergy. We also heard from teachers who wanted better support and broader training.

Their sentiments echoed those of allergy experts in 2020:

Most schools have not taken up the opportunity to obtain spare AAIs, and the level of staff training is still well below what we consider to be acceptable. There remains a clear need for a change in culture around how allergies are managed in school. While progress has been made in Australia and the USA, we continue to lag behind: children are suffering and even dying as a result.[1]

Our findings:

The teachers’ view

When asked how many of their students have food allergies, 39% answered “don’t know” and over a third (38%), told us they didn’t know how many of their pupils carried adrenaline pens. Adrenaline pens are prescribed to people with allergies, considered at greater risk of anaphylaxis.

Staff who told us about allergic reactions described accidental exposure, such as an egg-allergic child being given an egg sandwich by mistake and staff failing to spot the signs. But we were told of poor communication with families too, one teacher spoke of their frustration that a parent wouldn’t supply antihistamine for use at school, even though their child had had a reaction and the teacher wanted to be better prepared in future.

Parents and carers’ view

A third of parents whose told us their children had had an allergic reaction in school were not positive about the way the incident was managed. One parent told us that when her daughter experienced a serious reaction “It was chaos! The first-aider injected themselves (with the adrenaline auto-injector).” Another said her son’s reaction wasn’t spotted at first because he wasn’t showing “classic symptoms”, but once staff realised what was happening they managed the incident well.

THIS MIGHT SOUND BLEAK BUT….

Sometimes relatively small changes to procedures, policies and understanding can make a huge difference and really transform allergy management in schools for everyone.

We know that many schools and staff take food allergy seriously and understand what a responsibility it is to support students with this serious medical condition – and we are here to help.

MORE ABOUT THE ALLERGY TEAM’S MEMBERSHIP FOR SCHOOLS

You can find out lots more about our programme for schools here.

It’s aimed at all school staff to encourage a whole school approach and covers and includes the following:

• Comprehensive online training for senior leaders, SENCo, catering manager and medical officer.

• All other staff will receive a concise version.

• Training includes recognising and treating an allergic reaction, adrenaline pen training, reducing the risk of allergic reactions, supporting pupils’ mental health, identification of pupils with food allergies, managing school trips and extracurricular activities and so much more.

• Both training courses can be rewatched whenever a refresher is required and there is no limit on staff numbers for either, so you can decide who gets which training.

• We also run termly webinars with experts including healthcare professionals and education lawyers.

• Half-termly drop-in Zoom Q&As to ask questions, share advice, discuss issues, seek guidance etc.

For a 20-minute free consultation or to find out more, please email schools@theallergyteam.com

[1] Keeping food-allergic children safe in our schools—Time for urgent action. CEA 2020

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