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Diabetes in schools – responsibilities of teachers

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If you have a child in your class with diabetes, understanding diabetes will help them get the most out of their time in your lessons and, we hope, put your mind at rest.

 

But diabetes does affect every child differently, which is why it’s very important to read their Individual Healthcare Plan (IHP) so you can get a better grasp of how their diabetes affects them personally. Understanding a child’s IHP forms part of your school’s responsibilities to children with diabetes.

 

On this page you will find information about:

 

Trained staff

Your school should have at least two trained members of staff who are fully trained in the child's needs, e.g who know how to administer insulin, test blood glucose (blood sugars), understand the readings and know how to treat a child’s diabetes.

Emergency procedures

An emergency for a child with diabetes means an incident that requires immediate treatment. In most cases this will be a hypo or a hyper.

If you teach a child with diabetes, over the course of a year it is quite likely that sometimes they will have a hypo – low blood sugars – or go hyper – high blood sugars – in your lesson. Making sure what you know what to do is crucial. Precisely what you do will be detailed in their IHP.

Hypoglycemia

The severity of a hypo will often vary. A hypo is generally treated with something sugary to eat or drink. You should always allow a child or the trained member of staff to treat a hypo immediately. Delaying treatment will only make their blood sugars lower and can eventually lead to hospitalisation.

If a child is hypo or hyper they should not be made to leave the class, and they should never be left on their own or sent to get treatment alone. A hypo can make a child unsteady on their feet or dizzy, so they should be allowed to recover where they are.

Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia doesn't tend to develop as quickly as a hypo if a child takes insulin by injection. If they use a pump though, they can go high quickly. Children with high blood sugars must be allowed to drink and go to the toilet whenever they need to. You must also let their trained carer give them extra insulin, or deal with their pump. 

The child's IHP will state who you should tell if a child does have a hypo or a hyper. Generally you will have to let a trained member of staff know, the school nurse (if you have one) and the child's parents.

It is far less likely that you will have to call for an ambulance because of a child's diabetes, but this is a possibility. A child's IHP will state this and the trained member of staff and parents should be involved by this stage.

General responsibilities in class

Remember that each child's diabetes is different and you have a responsibility to treat each child as an individual.

A child's IHP will detail their triggers and symptoms of a hypo and hyper. This will help you identify when their blood sugars might be getting too high or low.

While hypos affect children differently some common issues include a loss of concentration and a change in behaviour. Sometimes a hypo or hyper will cause a child to misbehave and this is something they are not able to control. Bear this in mind when considering your school's behaviour policy.

A child with diabetes will inevitably have to go for medical check-ups. Their attendance record must not be penalised because of these appointments. Your school's medical conditions policy should be clear on how these appointments are entered into the register.

Whether it's an appointment, a half-missed lesson because of a hypo, or an extended bout of illness, a child with diabetes may well miss some of your lessons and need to catch up. How you arrange this will depend on the individual circumstances, but you should discuss with the family or child for the best way to go about it. 

Depending on their age a child is normally best placed to know about their condition, so it is important that you do not ignore their views about their diabetes.

If a supply teacher is covering your class then they will need to be informed that a child with diabetes is in your class. Your school's medical conditions policy will state how a supply teacher is informed of this, and by whom. It might be your responsibility to do this.

You should never undertake any healthcare procedures without being properly trained.

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PE, schools trips, extra-curricular activities and exams

A child must never be excluded from a school trip, PE, or extra-curricular activities because of their diabetes.

If you are taking a child with diabetes for PE or they are playing sports for the school then you must be aware of how they will treat their diabetes before, during and after. They will need somewhere safe to store their equipment.

If you are arranging a school trip, whether it's a short, local trip or a week-long residential, you will need to make sure you have planned how a child with diabetes will be able to take part. This can form part of yourrisk assessment.

For longer trips, especially residential trips, you will need to meet with the child (if appropriate), the child's parents, your school's trained members of staff and child's paediatric diabetes specialist nurse (PDSN) to agree the support and care needed for them to take part.

Only allowing a child with diabetes to take part in an extra-curricular activity or trip if one of their parents or carers accompanies them is not acceptable practice.

If a child is taking exams their IHP for that year must include an agreed protocol for exams. You should be aware of what this protocol is, as should any invigilators.

For more detailed information on school trips:

View our residential school trips and exams online tool

Further information and support

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