Rights of children with Type 1 – by Martyn Cooper

This Universal Children’s Day, Martyn, our Advocacy Manager, has taken a look at the rights of children with Type 1 diabetes at school.

Schools should, and usually do, provide brilliant care for children with Type 1 diabetes. But sometimes, through a lack of awareness or forward planning, children with diabetes don’t get the care they need at school, and are disadvantaged as a result. What’s more – often parents don’t know what they can ask for.

Whilst the exact legal requirements on schools vary across the UK’s nations, schools have a responsibility to properly support children with medical conditions, and children and parents have the right to ask the school to put this support in place.

Here are some of the most common questions we get asked –

My child’s school keep sending them home because they don’t have enough trained staff.

Schools need to have enough trained staff to care for a child properly (by following their individual healthcare plan). How many staff are needed depends on the child, but Diabetes UK says it should be at least two. Schools also need to allow for unexpected things to happen, like staff being off sick. Children with diabetes should not be disadvantaged by missing lessons just because the school has insufficient trained staff to care for them properly.

My child wasn’t allowed on the end of year cinema trip because their attendance was low because of clinic appointments. Is that allowed? It seems so unfair!

We sometimes hear about children missing out on trips or certificates because of their attendance. Schools normally need to record all absences, but a child shouldn’t be penalised for absences when they are related to a medical condition. If a student is missing out on rewards and trips, or if their attendance record will disadvantage them later in life, the school may not be making sufficient adjustments to prevent your child being put at a significant disadvantage as a result of their medical condition and this practice should be challenged.

My child isn’t allowed to play football at the after-school club because of their diabetes. They say it’s not safe, but they play football all the time!

Schools normally have good intentions for their pupils and children can be excluded from activities because of genuine safety concerns. However, children with Type 1 should be able to join in with all the same activities as their friends unless there is a clinical reason for them not to – it just takes a bit of forward planning. The important thing is that the school, parents and child’s healthcare team work together to ensure that the child can join in safely with their friends and enjoy the activity.

 I’ve paid for my child to go on a residential school trip as part of GCSE studies, and now the school says they cannot go unless I go as well. Can they insist on this?

It is not unusual to hear that some schools try to exclude children with Type 1 from residential trips unless their parent goes with them. It is understandable that the school will want the pupil to be safe, but to put extra conditions on their attendance puts them at a disadvantage and singles them out from their friends. The child has a right to be properly supported so that they can take part in residential trips without a parent having to attend as well.

Diabetes UK resources

There’s lots of information about the rights of children with diabetes in school on our website. There’s guidance on who should have responsibility for what and legal information for across the UK. We also have our ‘Type 1 diabetes in school’ packs – we have 2 versions of this, one especially for schools and the other for parents.

Go to diabetes.org.uk/schools

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s care in school, call the Diabetes UK Helpline on 0345 123 2399 or email helpline@diabetes.org.uk.





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