Little Coeliacs at School

It’s finally here.  After counting down the sleeps the Summer holidays are in sniffing distance.  Year 1 will be remembered for being the year she lost her first tooth, learnt to tell the time,

was ‘Narrator 11’ in the nativity, discovered ‘Horrid Henry’ books had words like ‘Bogey’ and ‘Poo’ in them (so started to read herself to sleep at night), wrote her first story, went to Lotherton Hall on a trip (“Penguins stink Mum”) and, most importantly, learnt that Viking poo looked like loads of potatoes stacked in a row.  


It’s also been the year Peg was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease.  I could have burst with pride the day she went in to school to talk about her condition in front of the class.  With a box of home made Gluten Free buns to dish out to her class mates which had been decorated with icing (“I’m going to leave the sprinkles off in case anyone is allergic Mummy”).  She showed photographs of the fund raiser we’d had the weekend before, the class did a quiz and watched a short film to learn about gluten and which foods she could and couldn’t eat.  The one and only little Coeliac at her school – I think she felt quite special!


Back in April we had the chance to sit around a table with representatives from both the school and catering company to talk through Peggys needs and find a solution that means she is catered for at school everyday (with kids in the UK being eligible for free school meals up until year 3 and gluten free food being approximately five times more expensive than regular food this was music to my ears!)


Unfortunately I know this isn’t the case for many little coeliacs out there.  When comparing Peggys school menu to her childrens school menu, Claire Latham from  Gluten Free Kids says; “We don’t have the level of choice where we live.  In terms of my childrens school they seem great, but I do wonder if some teachers would benefit from a little training to understand the severity of cross-contamination.”

Legally, schools have a duty of care to provide suitable meals for children with dietary needs; 


“As stated Under section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014, schools have a legal responsibility to make arrangements for supporting pupils at school with medical conditions. The requirements apply to maintained schools, academies, alternative provision academies and pupil referral units in England.  Schools should have policies setting out how they manage long term medical conditions. This policy should cover the following:


·         who the school should contact if there is an emergency


·         how the school will meet special needs, including diet


·         how the school will help children with medical conditions to participate in physical activity and school trips, if needed


·         agree with parents/carers of children on how the school will manage the child’s condition during the school day.


Schools should provide an individual healthcare plan (IHCP) for every child with a medical condition. A completed IHCP should be shared with the parent/carer once it has been agreed.”  


(Coeliac UK; 2018)


Following our meeting back in April I wrote up a ‘good practice’ document .  It is used by Peggys primary school to clarify the way in which Peggy is supported and cared for at school but also forms a kind of ‘step by step guide’ for the school to follow should another pupil be diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (and lets face it, with  the number of children with Coeliac Disease having tripled over the past 20 years it’s only a matter of time).  I feel passionatley about schools and teachers being informed about Coeliac Disease and how a gluten free diet isn’t in fact a fad but the only medical treatment for Coelaic Disease. 

It’s not only catering companies who have a responsibilty to ensure our little coeliacs are catered for safely, but our teachers too (cookery classes, food tasting, handing out sweets at birthdays, christmas parties, fundraising tuck shops…the list goes on!) 

I’m working hard to make leads into other schools, councils, academies and charities to look at rolling my document out in the hope that every school in our city….no country…sod it, the world (!!) has a safe system of work in place to ensure our little Coeliacs are safe at school.  If anyone can offer some guidance in this area I’d be hugely grateful. 

Whilst I work behind the scenes on my master plan (fuelled by biscuits and tea and trying really hard to ignore the Top Shop sale emails) it’s worth a mention that Coeliac UK has some great advice and guidance for schools in their School Pack – Information for schools in England and we pointed our school towards this when setting up the process. 


A copy of the menu stuck to our fridge!


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