My little baby boy is starting school next year – how did that happen?!
I always imagined we would live in a small village and walk him everyday to the local school. That was the plan. But then we found our house, down a farm track, and fell in love!
So now, we have to decide which school we would like him to go to. We are in the catchment area for a large school in the local town but also have some outstanding village schools nearby.
As well as worrying about him being happy and learning well, I am also concerned about how they can manage his food allergies effectively.
Here are 5 questions I have been asking:
Do you have any pupils with food allergies?
This is a good opener to start the conversation and see how they respond. It allows me to see their attitude to the situation, which is so important, and if they do have pupils with allergies, how much they have already done to accommodate them.
What is your allergy management plan?
A few of the schools I am looking at are nut free but I do not believe this is necessarily the best approach. I am keen to hear how they would manage the risks of multiple allergies and keep J safe and included in all school activities.
Are your staff epipen trained?
This is not a dealbreaker, as they can easily train their staff but it is a bonus. It shows their commitment and understanding and is reassuring to know they are already paying attention.
Where do children sit to eat their lunches?
A couple of the schools I am looking at are very small so children eat their lunches in the classrooms, which concerns me. I want to know that they will not separate J from others but will take steps to clean areas, educate children about not sharing food and adapt for his needs.
Who prepares and serves school lunches?
The bigger school prepares and manages lunches onsite whereas the village schools have them delivered, leaving more room for error I think. I am open to sending packed lunches but it would be great if the caterers are flexible, experienced and have clear plans for catering for allergies.
What is your snack and treats policy?
If snacks are provided, especially in the classroom, then it is important they are safe and inclusive. I also want to know how they manage children bringing in birthday cakes or treats for their classmates, as well as cake sales, baking or seasonal celebrations.
At the moment, I am trying not to judge the schools purely on their allergy management as I hope this is something we can work on together. However, if I am happy overall with a few of them, then this would be a leading factor.
How did you decide on a school for your children? What questions did you ask?