Our daughter starts back at school today. It’s her first day at secondary school – a significant day, and as I waved good bye to her this morning, watching her walk into the school theatre for morning briefing, I realised that this is one of those really big transitions in a person’s life. And a parent’s life too…
I managed to wait until after the Principal’s address to parents, and after leaving school grounds to get a little teary, so I’m calling the morning a win all around!
As I drove into work, I thought about all the things we’d done to get ready for the day. We’d attended information sessions, gone on school tours, enrolled in cello lessons, decided which language to learn, ordered and collected text books and stationery, organised a public transport pass, learnt how to use the school’s intranet, done a few practice school runs on the tram and many other things that we did as we thought of them.
The check list we were working from seemed endless and we kept adding tasks to it. But we made it, and by last night, her schoolbag was packed and she was ready for her first day.
But our story is common and all families with children starting at (or back at) school have done similar things. However, there are some families who have a whole lot more to do than just make sure they have the right coloured pencils and appropriate snacks in the lunchbox.
There are over 11,000 preschool and school-aged children here in Australia with diabetes, and they – along with their parents – face different and extra challenges preparing for their first days of school. In addition to the things I’ve mentioned above, they have another checklist that needed to be dealt with. The diabetes at school checklist.
While they are packing school bags with books and pencils and lunch for the day, they are also building hypo kits to be delivered throughout their child’s school. They will probably have spent some – maybe considerable – time with teachers explaining some diabetes basics and what to do in the case of a diabetes emergency.
It’s likely that their child’s healthcare team will have been involved in preparing some sort of management plan for the school, outlining how to support the child during the school day, with extra attention given to activities such as sports days, PE lessons, camps and excursions.
Possibly, their school will have undertaken some formal training, such as the School Seminars offered by Diabetes Victoria. They should have received a copy of Mastering Diabetes and hopefully shared the school-relevant information with their child’s teachers and other school staff.
It’s a lot to think about. And it’s understandable why many parents feel a lot of concern, especially when you consider that there is no standard requirement by schools when it comes to supporting children and adolescents with diabetes.
And, quite frankly, that’s not good enough.
Since returning from holidays this year, the majority of my work has centred around diabetes and schools, and today Diabetes Australia launched a new report calling for a systematic, nationally consistent approach to supporting children and young people with diabetes in the school setting. Children and adolescents with diabetes have a right to fully participate in all school activities, but to do so does require training and commitment.
It’s time to move away from the mixed-bag, approach that is in place now, where it seems that luck determines if a school is well prepared and teachers are well trained. Kids with diabetes deserve much, much better.