Every child needs to feel a sense of belonging, and feel that teachers are dedicated to supporting them to do their best in class. So it is important to consider inclusion in all aspects of the curriculum. This includes food tech lessons and the basic knowledge of what forms healthy eating, food preparation, and simple meal plans.
For the food allergic child this is a vital skill, because eating outside the home is problematic for some. Teaching children about common ingredients is an important part of learning to manage their allergies as they grow older.
During our son’s early years of education sporadic exclusion occurred. I got the impression that his teachers had little knowledge or understanding of his allergies or how he could be included in the curriculum. He was moved to another class when cookery lessons included one of his allergens. Or once was offered food during a lesson on the five senses, without considering his food allergies.
It became obvious that the teachers needed more support and education, and for us as parents we objected to the idea that simply removing or excluding him from lessons was acceptable. When the puzzled TA explained that our son had refused to taste food during the five senses lesson, I praised our son in front of her and told him he had done the right thing. Then I explained to both the TA and the class teacher that we had taught him to only accept food that we had checked was suitable for him.
When they removed him from cookery lessons I offered to supply them with a safe food substitute if they let us know in advance what the lesson was, for instance supplying an egg replacer. The teachers then gradually realised and gave time to plan how to include our son in all aspects of the curriculum, and we began to form a good relationship, working as a supportive team around him.
This became a common pattern throughout his school life, each teacher started learning about inclusion for our son when the new school year began, often making mistakes on the way. Decent training for all school staff would have prevented this, and certainly reduced not only our stress levels as parents, but our sons as well.
When accepting an allergic child in the school, all staff need to have a basic understanding of food allergy v food intolerance, cross contamination and label reading as part of allergy training. Training teachers how to use an auto injector is half the training, recognising anaphylaxis, management and inclusion should also be part of training. If a teacher or staff member does not feel confident to volunteer for auto injector training, they should still be taught the basic of allergies, and inclusion. As they are still part of the team around that pupil.
Management may be avoidance, but that does not mean exclusion of the child.
All schools and early years settings have an agreed allergy policy, and certainly the management and inclusion of each child should be part of a truly working policy. Worth considering is also the social aspects of a school community, because exclusion had happen not only during lesson time. Are the PTA and after school clubs informed on food allergy and have an inclusive attitude?