Managing the Transition to Secondary School

This is a time when children are beginning to take more responsibility for managing their allergies and are developing their confidence and independence.

Parents/carers often feel unsure of what to expect from a secondary school, how to choose a suitable school and what questions they should ask to ensure their child will be supported to manage their allergies independently in school.

Key points to remember:
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Every school works differently
  • right_arrow_orange_icon What works at primary school will not necessarily work or be an option at secondary school
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Positive, open communication with the school you choose is key
  • right_arrow_orange_icon It is important to include the child in all discussions and decisions, taking into account what the child feels comfortable with

Preparing for and managing the transition to secondary school with allergies

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Information for Parents & Carers

This guide is designed to help parents and carers in four key areas:

  • Getting prepared for the transition to secondary school and understanding responsibilities
  • Questions to ask when choosing a secondary school for your allergic child
  • Ensuring a smooth transition from primary school to your chosen secondary school
  • Monitoring ongoing allergy management after starting at secondary school

Preparing for Secondary School

A good place to begin the transition process is to think about how your child’s allergy is currently managed at their primary school, what may still work at the new school and what will need to be managed differently.

You can contact your child’s current primary school to find out:

  • Does the school have an existing relationship with the secondary schools of interest and will they discuss your child’s individual medical needs with them?
  • Are they encouraging your child to take responsibility for managing their allergies now in preparation for secondary school and discussing any fears or anxiety?
  • Do they have any concerns about your child’s transition to secondary school regarding their allergies?

Watch our webinar

Sending a child with an allergy to secondary school

Sending your child with an allergy to secondary school for the first time can be challenging time. In this video Simon Williams, chief executive of Anaphylaxis UK speaks with a parent and a headteacher about some of the questions to ask and things to consider.

Talk to a Healthcare Professional

If there is an opportunity to talk to your child’s allergy specialist/nurse, school nurse or GP you could discuss:

  • That you are starting the process of applying for a secondary school and if they can offer any helpful advice or guidance.
  • Your child’s Allergy Action Plan and make sure it is up to date.
  • How to make sure your child is trained and confident administering their own adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs).

Do Your Research

You can be better prepared by doing some research to understand what the responsibilities are of the school, parents and pupils. Our Safer Schools Programme webpage outlines school’s best practice guidelines along with the statutory guidance that school’s must follow to keep pupils with medical conditions safe.

Important Questions When Choosing a Secondary School

When visiting potential schools, you may feel unsure of the right questions to ask. This list is not exhaustive, and you may have many more questions that you can ask the secondary schools of interest.

Some suggestions that you might like to think about:

  • How does the school manage allergies, anaphylaxis and its treatment?
  • Where can I find the school’s policy supporting pupils with medical needs? Does it include how the school manages allergies and anaphylaxis?
  • Can a meeting be arranged with staff and my child before they start to discuss the allergies and how these can be managed safely?
  • How does my child’s allergy action plan/risk assessment/individual healthcare plan get passed to the secondary school?
  • How many staff (including non-teaching staff and volunteers) are given the opportunity to undertake anaphylaxis training?
  • Will my child be encouraged to carry their AAIs on their person where possible?
  • If there is a reason my child can’t carry their AAIs on their person, where will they be kept?
  • Where will my child’s AAIs be kept during sports so that they are immediately accessible?
  • Does the school choose to purchase spare AAIs each year?
  • What is the process for managing allergies in the school canteen? Will my child be able to eat canteen food safely and if so, how will they know which food items contain the allergen? How can I communicate with the caterers?
  • How will my child’s allergies affect their ability to join in with extracurricular activities, after-school clubs or school trips and events? What steps will the school take to ensure that my child is able to participate safely?
  • Is the school community educated on allergies, anaphylaxis and emergency treatment, to raise awareness?

Before the First Term Starts

In the weeks running up to the start of term, it will be important to ensure that actions agreed with the child’s new school are put into place to ensure a smooth transition from primary school to your chosen secondary school.

Points to consider:

  • Have you had a meeting with relevant school staff to discuss how your child’s allergies can be managed at school safely or is a meeting planned?
  • How do all the teachers know my child has an allergy?
  • Does the school have a copy of an up-to-date fully completed and signed Allergy Action Plan?
  • Have the school staff completed any required training in allergy and anaphylaxis as agreed?
  • If the school has agreed to purchase spare AAIs, has this been actioned?
  • Has the school completed an Allergy Risk Assessment for your child?
  • Are the school staff clear about where your child’s AAIs will be?
  • Are the arrangements for catering for the child whilst at school clear and understood by all relevant staff?

Settling in at Secondary School

Monitoring ongoing allergy management after starting at secondary school will add further peace of mind that your child is settling in well and that their allergies are being appropriately managed.

  • Once your child has settled into their new school check in and make sure all the arrangements are working as expected.
  • Discuss the management of allergies at school with your child regularly to ensure that they are proactively keeping themselves safe at school and whether there are any concerns.
  • If things are not working out as anticipated or there are any allergy management concerns, follow the school’s complaints procedure. It will be available from the school.
  • Make sure you know how to contact key staff when your child is undertaking any extracurricular activities or lessons involving their allergen.

A Special Thank You

Special thanks to Tracey Dunn, Headteacher and Anaphylaxis UK Education Ambassador and Tina Naseem, parent volunteer, for their contributions to developing this guide.