Diabetes and family life

Ensuring your diabetic child stays safe in school

Parents want to ensure their children get the very best care and attention at school, but for parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, this is especially crucial. Making sure your child's school understands their condition, and helping your child manage it is a serious concern for parents and carers.

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Our specialist Education Lawyers at Simpson Millar are experts in supporting concerned parents. Imogen Jolley, Partner and Head of Education and Community Care, explains how you can ensure your child's school is prepared for their condition and what we can do to help.

Who treats my child during school hours?

One example we often see is parents who have to leave their workplace, or continually go into school throughout the day to monitor blood sugar levels and administer insulin. This is not appropriate, and is amongst the unacceptable practices outlined by the Department of Education's guidance for supporting pupils at school with medical conditions. Not only are parents having to take time off work, often they give up work altogether, placing a financial burden on the whole family.

School trips and other outings are also part of the fabric of your child's education. In some cases, parents are being compelled to accompany their children on these trips because otherwise the school prevents them from going.  This is also an unacceptable practice that shouldn't happen.

Getting the right support

In a class with 30 children, it can be difficult for teachers and teaching assistants to concentrate on one child. Your child may require full time, one-to-one support in school, and the school will not be able to fund this without support from the local authority. Those who are going to be around your child should receive the proper diabetes training to help manage their condition when they are at school.

Medical conditions policy

All schools should have a medical conditions policy that sets out clear roles and responsibilities for parents, teachers and staff who are caring for children with a long-term medical condition. This should be readily available for you to see at your child's school.

Even though they may have this policy, it does not mean that the school will have the understanding needed to manage your child's condition. This is because no two children will require the exact same care when it comes to managing diabetes.

Giving your school the right information

Each child with Type 1 diabetes should have an Individual Health Plan (IHP) in school. Some parents resort to writing their own plans, in addition to their child's health care plan, to help educate teachers and those who volunteer to be a part of their child's care.

They may include:

  • General information about diabetes
  • The difference between hypo and hyperglycaemia
  • What equipment their child uses to manage their condition
  • A diabetes control chart explaining the signs and symptoms of high or low blood sugar with their particular child

Although very helpful to schools, it should not take parents writing their own supplementary plans to get schools to take action on behalf of children with medical conditions that affect their learning. No-one would expect a mother of a child with cerebral palsy or autism to do the same, yet because diabetes is often described as the 'hidden' disability, awareness of the condition is minimal among those dealing with young children.

Children with SEN – Incorporating an IHP into your child's provision

For children with diabetes and special educational needs (SEN), it's important that both their educational and healthcare needs are recognised and supported. If your child has SEN, you may already have SEN Support or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) in place with provisions for your child's education.

If your child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the IHP should be linked or included in your child's EHCP. If you don't have SEN Support or an EHCP in place, your child's SEN should be mentioned in the IHP.

If things aren't going to plan

A lack of understanding of your child's disability by their school can lead to a number of unacceptable practices. These include not following their IHP, making parents feel obliged to come into schools to manage their child's condition, or preventing pupils themselves from managing their condition effectively.

If you feel your child is being prevented from being included in everyday school activities, you should first try and address this with the school. In most cases, it is not down to malice that your child's needs may have slipped through the gap. Often, it is because schools are unaware of the seriousness of the condition. It may help to have your child's paediatric diabetes specialist nurse (PDSN) and/or advice from their paediatric team to explain the medical consequences of letting your child's care slip in school hours. If the school does not know how to treat their condition and are not acting on the help provided to them, they are putting your child at risk.

This article was written by Simpson Millar Solicitors.

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