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Stephen Dixon: “Why I’m backing Diabetes UK’s Make the Grade campaign”

Thursday 13 March 2014

Sky News presenter Stephen Dixon explains why proper support in schools for children with Type 1 diabetes is so essential:

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Stephen Dixon

We all remember our school years. For many of us they are some of the most exciting and rewarding years of our lives and, certainly, some of my fondest memories are of attending the local primary and secondary schools in the small village of Dalton- in-Furness in Cumbria.But for many children with Type 1 diabetes, leading a full and active school life and doing all the things that children love can be very difficult. This is because many

children with the condition can struggle to get the additional support they need in school as a result of their diabetes.

"I was diagnosed midway through my A-Levels"

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was 17 years old midway through my A Levels. The diagnosis came as a huge shock to me and my family and I very quickly had to learn to self-manage the condition. But with the right support I was able to successfully complete my A Levels and get the grades that I needed and the condition has thankfully never held me back.

But getting to grips with a lifelong health condition at the same time as working towards important exams was tough for me, even though I had good support and was almost approaching adulthood when I was diagnosed. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have to go through that as a young child who is not supported by their school.

The stark fact is, though, that while many schools already offer excellent support for children with Type 1, there are still too many that don’t. It is pretty shocking that in the 21st Century we hearstoriesabout children who are not looked after when their blood glucose falls dangerously low, or who are unfairly excluded from extra-curricular activities. For some children, this can badly dent their confidence and wellbeing at a time when they are already having to deal with coming to terms with living with a serious condition.

This has meant that some parents have taken the difficult decision to home educate their children or move their children to another school, which is hugely disruptive to their education. Some parents have even had to take their schools to court, which is a daunting and stressful process for families, and parents should not have to resort to legal action to ensure their child is supported by their school.

“It’s not just children with diabetes”

And it’s not just diabetes. Children with other conditions such as asthma and epilepsy face similar problems. Every child should have the right to feel safe in school but this doesn’t seem to be the case if you’re a child with a long term medical condition.

But the good news is that this could be changing. The Government hasannouncedthat from September schools will be legally obliged to support children with long-term health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes. But “support” can mean a range of things, and that’s why it’s really important that as many people as possible have their say about the importance of this.

"Take part in the Government's consultation"

This is why I am backing Diabetes UK’s call for as many people as possible to take part in the government consultation on what support should entail in practice. I would urge anyone, whether they are a parent of a child with Type 1 or simply care about children with long-term health conditions getting a fair start in life, to take part and send a strong message to the Government about how crucial support in schools for children with medical conditions is.

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