New code for allergy management in schools

Sam Preston 3 April 2024 2 min read
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In the ever-evolving landscape of education, ensuring the safety and well-being of all students remains paramount. Yet, despite the best efforts of educators and administrators, allergies continue to pose a significant risk in schools across the UK. Recognisng the urgent need for standardised protocols and heightened awareness, a groundbreaking initiative has emerged: the Schools Allergy Code.

Developed collaboratively by , The Allergy Team, Benedict Blythe Foundation and the Independent Schools Bursars Association (ISBA), the Schools Allergy Code represents a comprehensive framework for best practices in managing allergies within educational settings. This initiative has garnered widespread support from schools, families, and allergy specialists, with the Department for Education endorsing its implementation nationwide.

The need for such guidance is highlighted by sobering statistics. According to recent data, the prevalence of food allergies among pupils is significant, with an average of one to two students in every class affected. Shockingly, a staggering 58% of parents of children with allergies report instances of reactions or "near misses" at school, highlighting the urgent need for improved safety measures. A near miss is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as any event that doesn't lead to harm but does have the potential to cause illness or injury.

Furthermore, a concerning 40% of teachers admit to lacking confidence in managing allergic reactions effectively, signalling a critical gap in training and preparedness. This lack of confidence is particularly troubling given the potentially life-threatening nature of allergic reactions.

Fatal allergic reactions, though rare, have devastating consequences, as evidenced by tragic incidents in recent years. In 2017 alone, three children lost their lives following allergic reactions at school, with subsequent inquests revealing systemic failings in response protocols. Clearly, the status quo is no longer acceptable, and decisive action is needed to deliver our duty of care and safeguard the well-being of all students.

Renowned experts in paediatric allergy, including Professor Adam Fox, have echoed the urgent call for change. Professor Fox asserts that current school policies often fall short, leaving children vulnerable to serious harm. He emphasises the importance of educating the entire school community about food allergies to effect meaningful change.

The introduction of the Schools Allergy Code represents a pivotal moment in allergy management, offering a standardised approach that is both practical and effective. For some schools, implementing the Code will mark the beginning of a transformative journey toward improved safety and inclusivity. For others, it will validate existing best practices, reinforcing a commitment to prioritising student well-being.

Central to the Schools Allergy Code is the principle of a whole-school approach, wherein every member of the school community shares responsibility for reducing risk and promoting inclusivity. The Code emphasises targeted training for staff, clear communication with parents, and the development of individual healthcare plans for students with allergies.

In addition to providing practical guidance, the Schools Allergy Code offers a pathway for schools to demonstrate their commitment to allergy management excellence. Schools that successfully implement the Code are eligible to join the Schools Allergy Register, providing assurance to families and caregivers seeking safe, educational environments for their children.

Launching the Schools Allergy Code marks a significant step forward in addressing the urgent need for improved allergy management in schools. By fostering a culture of awareness, preparedness, and inclusivity, this initiative holds the potential to save lives and ensure that all students can thrive in a safe and supportive learning environment.

In conclusion, the time for change is now. The new code is a beacon of hope and will hopefully be a catalyst for positive transformation in our schools. At the very least we must raise the standards of prevention and management, as we have for administration of medication. By working collaboratively and prioritising the well-being of every student, a future can be created in schools where allergies no longer pose a barrier to learning and participation.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director

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