The Schools Allergy Code is a new framework for best practice to help schools manage allergies. Backed by schools, families and allergy doctors, it sets out clear, practical guidance to support staff and help reduce risk. The Code was developed by The Allergy Team, Benedict Blythe Foundation and the ISBA. It has been recommended to all schools by Department for Education. Schools which have implemented the Code can apply to join the Schools Allergy Register.

How safe is your school?

In the UK, the level of understanding about food allergies and the policies and procedures in place to manage them vary widely from school to school. This has to change.

The average number of pupils with food allergy in every class*

%

parents of pupils with allergies say they've had reactions or “near misses” at school**

%

teachers don’t feel confident to manage an allergic reaction***

How safe are pupils with allergies at your school, how confident are your staff to spot the signs of an allergic reaction and treat it, and do your policies and training focus on reducing risk for young people with allergies, as well as emergency response?

the need for new guidance

The Allergy Team works with hundreds of schools and families and they have told us that clear standards for allergy management, underpinned by practical guidance, are needed. That is why we have drawn up the Schools Allergy Code, a framework for best practice that is straightforward to implement in any setting.

Allergic disease is the most common chronic medical condition in childhood in the UK and any allergic reaction or near miss can have a big impact on the whole school. As well as potentially making a pupil very unwell, these incidents can have wider implications, from staff needing time off, to pupils and their families losing confidence.

Fatal allergic reactions, caused by anaphylaxis are rare, but in 2017 alone three children died following allergic reactions at school (1). The inquests into all three deaths identified failings in how the school responded.

One of the country’s leading Consultants in Paediatric Allergy, Professor Adam Fox says school policies are often inadequate:

There is a clear need for a change in culture around how food allergies are managed in schools. The UK lags behind other countries and children are suffering and even dying as a result. By really educating the whole school community about food allergy we can turn things around.

Professor Adam Fox

Professor of Paediatric Allergy, Guy's & St Thomas' Hospitals

For some schools adopting the Schools Allergy Code will be the start of turning things around, for others it will be reinforcing good practice already in place. What’s more, it sends a clear signal to staff, families and pupils that your school understands how serious allergies can be and that you will introduce the support needed to protect staff and help keep pupils with allergies safer.

As Seen in the media

🎙 Listen to our Times Radio interview explaining the Code

WATCH AND LISTEN TO MORE PRESS COVERAGE HERE

BBC Breakfast spoke to Sarah about our work with schools

the current picture in schools

Placing the responsibility for managing food allergies on a catering team, school nurses (if you’re lucky enough to have them), or one or two staff members with EpiPen training leaves staff and pupils vulnerable.

Up to 20% of anaphylaxis cases occur within school grounds and of these, one in four occurs in pupils not previously deemed at risk (2).

A US study found that 79% to 83% of severe food allergic reactions occurred in the classroom, not the dining room (3).

So developing a sense of collective responsibility for allergy management and ensuring there’s a focus on risk reduction and whole school training is vital.

Two new surveys suggest that doesn’t always happen now.

what parents tell us

In January 2024, 363 parents of  school-aged children with allergies responded to a survey by The Allergy Team.

  • 58% said their child had experienced an allergic reaction or “near miss” at school. Often children had been given unsafe food on multiple occasions.
  • 46% said their child had been left out of a schools activity because of their allergies. This included being told to sit and draw while the rest of the class made pancakes or being made to eat lunch in a separate room.
  • We also heard stories of young people being threatened with their allergens or bullied because of their condition.

84% parents said they would have greater confidence in a school if it had adopted the Schools Allergy Code and joined the Schools Allergy Register.

what teachers tell us

In 2023, Benedict Blythe Foundation received 244 responses to its teacher survey.

  • 15% teachers said they did not know which children in their class had allergies.
  • 1 in 3 teachers had not received any allergy training.
  • 40% did not have Individual Healthcare Plans for pupils with allergies.
The Schools Allergy Code was drawn up in collaboration with the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association and Benedict Blythe Foundation. The Foundation was set up by Helen Blythe in memory of her five year old son who died after experiencing anaphylaxis at school.

Too many children with allergies face unacceptable levels of risk at school, somewhere they should feel safe and protected. Since Benedict died, I have spoken to countless parents and carers whose children have suffered allergic reactions or near-misses at school. I hope this new Code will ensure schools interrogate their own processes, improve their understanding of allergies and know how to respond in an emergency.

Helen Blythe

Mother of Benedict Blythe

Implementing the code

The Schools Allergy Code encourages schools to take a whole-school approach by training all staff and emphasises the importance of reducing risk, as well as knowing how to respond in an emergency.

Adopting the Code means examining every aspect of your allergy management. Governance, training, inclusion, communication and emergency response are all addressed, with a checklist to help you identify what you’re doing well and where you need to tighten up your procedures.

This does not need to be an arduous or expensive process and we have a range of support to help.

    JOIN THE SCHOOLS ALLERGY REGISTER

    The Schools Allergy Register is a list that families living with food allergy can search, to find schools committed to best practice in allergy management.

    Schools have to apply to join the Register and undergo online or in-person checks by The Allergy Team. 

    Schools on the Register earn a trust mark to publicise their ongoing work to help keep pupils with food allergies safer.

      References and further information:

      * Spare Pens in Schools

      ** The Allergy Team parent survey 2024

      *** Allergies in Schools: Teacher Survey 2032, Benedict Blythe Foundation

      (1) 13-year-old Karanbir Cheema died after a pupil flicked cheese at him knowing he had a dairy allergy, 14-year-old Nasar Ahmed died after an allergic reaction to milk in his tandoori chicken lunch and 9-year-old Mohammed Ismaell Ashraf died following an anaphylactic reaction to an unknown allergen.

      (2) Anaphylaxis in schools: results of the EPIPEN4SCHOOLS survey combined analysis and Increase in anaphylaxis-related hospitalizations but no increase in fatalities: an analysis of United Kingdom national anaphylaxis data, 1992-2012.

      (3) Role of Food Allergy Education: Measuring Teacher Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs.