Before I start giving any advice or telling you the journey we’ve been on I need to get something off my chest. Felix’s first 3 years at school have been brilliant! No allergic reactions, kind teachers and a kitchen team who really care. You’ll hear no horror stories here but I have picked up a load of tips along the way to smooth the path at school.
I seem to have a lot of primary school teachers as friends and they are certainly some of the most pragmatic and realistic people I could hope to meet. I did I pick their brains lots before Felix started school.
All sorts of dreadful scenarios swam around in my head before Felix started school. My worst fear was a friend would share a snickers bar in the lunch hall for Felix to skip off onto the school field, collapse and remain untreated. Through all the smiles and helpful chats with his new head teacher this was a dark fear always lurking.
This is my checklist for giving your child’s school the best chance of keeping your precious baby healthy:
Positive frame of mind
Don’t forget, if your child is at state school you are no longer paying nursery fees where you are providing income for the nursery’s profit. You are going to have to sell yourself as a calm, reasonable and helpful parent who won’t be phoning the Head teacher getting cross regularly. If you go on a charm offensive you are more likely to have things go your way. Cynical maybe, but let’s face it, being nice pays off.
Introduce yourself sharing facts
Email the school office with a little background about your child’s medical condition. This gives the school the opportunity to digest what you are telling them. As a starting point introduce yourself, your child, what you know they are allergic to, any other related medical conditions, symptoms they suffer, frequency of symptoms and medicine carried. Ask the Head Teacher if they will meet you to discuss a care plan.
Set out your wish list
You may ask for your child to enjoy free school lunches provided by the kitchen. You could request the school becomes nut free (although many are already). Your child may need very close supervision in the lunch hall. Whatever you would like, ask for it. There is no harm asking. Include all these requests in your email. Don’t forget If you put school staff on the spot you may not get the answer you want! Give them a chance to digest your requests before you meet.
The school office team will send you a STACK of papers to fill out. If this is your first child starting school please brace yourself for the number of letters you will need to sign. Do it quickly. Don’t give yourself a reputation for needing to be chased, as the school will be less likely to accommodate your more challenging requests!
Ask what the school needs from you
There could be another pupil with life threatening allergies in year 2 and the school has a large policy manual written already. You may be the first adrenaline pen carrier at the school. Asking what they want from you will demonstrate that you are willing to listen and work as a team, making the transition smoother. Prepare yourself to prove the allergies. I’ve heard of cases of parents lying about a food allergy to get the school menu adapted to the preference of a picky eater. I think I would go NUTS if I ever met a parent this daft. As a result you may need to ask your GP for a letter as proof of an allergy, medication and dosage.
Each pupil attending the school with a serious medical condition will probably have a care plan. This allows all staff have quick access to refer to about a condition or to help them in case of emergency. It will probably include a photograph of your child, your contact details, a list of allergies, instructions in case of emergency, location of medicine, dose of medicine required and staff trained to administer medicine. This is normally written by the school with the help of the area’s school nurse and stored somewhere easily accessible.
Again the area nurse may be able to train the staff of your school. I chose to train all of the reception teachers, reception teaching assistants, Head teacher and all of the lunchtime teachers (formerly known as dinner ladies in my day!) There will already be a few paediatric first aid trained members of staff who will have their training regularly updated.
We choose to transport Felix’s medicine to school in a brightly coloured pack labelled with a photo from Medpac. It was especially important to me that it was kept in the classroom rather than locked away in a cupboard. In an emergency you’ve got to be able find and act quickly! Having said that you don’t want a curious child stabbing themselves with an Epi-pen so it is best to store out of reach!
Have a calm classroom visit
At some point your child will be invited to visit their school and meet their teacher for an hour or 2. Brief the teacher about medicine and emergency action before the big day as it is a big moment for teachers, parents and children. If you really feel the need to stick around leave by the same door as all the other parents and hide in the reception waiting area. If your kid spots you they may cry, if they cry they may set everyone else off and that helps nobody. You can cry about the fact your baby is all grown up in the office where the team will give you sympathetic glances. Otherwise use this time wisely to catch up on Facebook fill out forms.
Relax but be vigilant
Accidents can happen but small children are incredibly well supervised in reception. Every day the little children are provided milk and Felix knew to stay away from the milk table to stay safe. Because 4 year olds are so messy the class teachers have to clear up lots of spillages from squeezed cartons so Felix knew to stall well clear! We have had 3 happy years at school but I never really stop worrying, that’s my job as a parent, let alone an allergy parent!
Now you’ve got the basics of a care plan organised you can then start planning food with the school cook. A blog on this subject is coming very soon…..
Some of my readers may recognize Felix, if you meet with his school they are bound to say “we can handle this no problem, we’ve had Felix here!”
DISCLAIMER – I may or may not have followed my own advice. As some of my followers work for Felix’s school only they will know how neurotic I really was. Being professionals and all they are never going to comment on this – HAH!! My secrets are safe. Thank you for taking care of my baby – he will leave your school with a full belly and an enquiring mind xxx