A lack of a clear, consistent national approach to supporting
children with diabetes at school means the parents of more than
11,300 Australian students with diabetes are enduring an anxious
start to the school year.
If not treated appropriately type 1 diabetes can pose immediate
life-threatening health risks and must be considered with the same
seriousness as acute asthma attacks and anaphylaxis.
Diabetes Australia CEO A/Professor Greg Johnson said the
organisation was calling for a nationally consistent program and a
more systematic approach to supporting children with diabetes at
school and in child care.
"Diabetes Australia is concerned that many schools do not
properly plan and prepare to provide a safe and supportive
environment for children with type 1 diabetes. This means children
may miss out on normal activities and learning opportunities. They
may also experience stigma, distress and discrimination,"
A/Professor Johnson said.
"There are other serious health concerns around missing
necessary insulin doses and being at a greater risk from dangerous
low blood glucose levels or 'hypos'."
"Children with diabetes have the fundamental right to a normal
school experience, including full participation in all educational,
extracurricular and sporting activities and it is important schools
provide the support needed to ensure this happens."
"Many parents and families are very worried about the school
environment and how their children can have a normal school
experience without the stigma and issues often associated with
insulin injections, checking blood glucose levels and managing
"It's 95 years since the first child received an insulin
injection in 1922 and in all that time we haven't seen any real
improvement. Surely after 95 years we should expect that insulin
injections, blood glucose monitoring and appropriate diabetes
management can happen at any school?"
A/Professor Johnson said the current approach was often ad hoc
and relied on voluntary help from individuals within the school
"For too long we have relied on goodwill, good luck and
volunteers putting their hand up to try and provide a safe and
supportive school environment," he said.
"It is time for a systemic approach in which every Principal and
school Board accepts the challenge and responsibility to plan and
prepare for students with type 1 diabetes."
"Diabetes Australia is writing to all Members of Parliament and
Ministers at the national and state and territory level, calling on
them to support a much stronger, nationally consistent
"Some states and territories have specific policies regarding
diabetes management in schools and some do not. Some states
and territories mandate the need for schools to have individual
diabetes management plans in place for children with diabetes, some
do not. Some states and territories have diabetes information and
training programs for teachers and schools, some do not."
"We need a national, consistent approach to address the
variability that exists across each state and territory and within
the public, private and religious school systems."
Melbourne mother, Shannon Macpherson from Skye, has three
children with type 1 diabetes at school: ten year old Bella and
thirteen-year-old twins Ayden and Connor.
"We have always been concerned that there is no consistent
training available for school teachers and staff to support our
kids when they are at school. We want our kids to have the chance
to take part in all school activities, but they do need some
additional care for that to happen safely," Ms Macpherson said.
"Bella is still at primary school, so the teachers and staff
have a higher level of involvement supporting her. Connor and Ayden
are a bit older so they are able to better self-manage, however
their teachers need to understand that diabetes can and will impact
on them and help out when necessary."
Diabetes Australia said parents often reported a lack of
understanding from teachers and schools regarding appropriate
day-to-day diabetes management in schools. Issues can include:
- a lack of easy access by their child to the diabetes care
equipment they need through the day,
- a lack of supervision of insulin injections or insulin pump
- a lack of timely access to drinking water or toilet privileges
when a child has high blood glucose levels,
- a lack of appropriate blood glucose management and supervision
around sporting events leading to hypoglycaemia, and
- a lack of consideration of diabetes around illness, excursions,
camps and examinations.
Additionally, teachers are often concerned about their own lack
of knowledge which means they may not be able to confidently
support a child with diabetes.