SAAG programme seeks to improve allergy management in schools

School allergy action group (SAAG) pilot has made the grade; the free programme seeks to improve allergy management in schools

Secondary schools in the UK are successfully embedding whole school allergy management by using the School Allergy Action Group (SAAG) toolkit, which has been piloted in diverse secondary schools.  This free seven-step programme involves senior management teams, school nurses, teachers, caterers, pupils, parents and governors in the development of a whole school allergy management policy and in the ongoing work needed to ensure that its implementation is effective and consistent.

Increasing numbers of school-age children with allergic disease is presenting schools with a major challenge around how to make school life for pupils with allergic disease as safe as possible.  The Children and Families Act 2014 places a duty on schools to support pupils with medical conditions. And, as part of their remit, Ofsted inspectors will pay particular attention to the outcomes for specified groups, including children with medical conditions, reporting on whether or not the arrangements for safeguarding children are effective.  This means that everyone in a school needs to be aware of allergy and know what to do if a pupil has an allergic reaction. The added benefit of the SAAG approach is to equip people with an awareness and understanding of allergy that can be carried forward as a life skill.

The two schools which have now successfully completed the SAAG pilot (Highgate School and Trinity School in Lewisham) have both progressed through the SAAG seven-step programme to create a whole school food allergy policy tailor-made for their school, which will be reviewed and refreshed annually. Another sixteen schools are at various stages of the SAAG process.  All have acknowledged that simply making a start has helped them to become more allergy aware.

Allergy UK has the details of the SAAG programme on the Schools area of its website.

Carla Jones, CEO of Allergy UK says: “The success of this pilot in two secondary schools with different demographics is very encouraging for the programme going forward”.

“We have seen too many incidents in schools where an effective whole school allergy policy might have prevented a tragedy. New legislation to allow schools to purchase adrenaline auto-injectors is only part of the story.* The SAAG approach is about embedding allergy awareness into a school’s culture and involving every aspect of a school’s operation.  This success has provided us with a strong platform on which to drive interest and participation by more secondary schools in the UK, raising awareness and understanding of allergic disease and helping schools to more safely manage their allergic pupils’ needs.”

Allergy UK has provided clinical advice and Food to Fit Limited (Registered Dietetic and Nutrition Consultancy) currently manages the project, guiding and helping secondary schools through each stage of the programme. In Spring, 2018 the whole programme will transition to the Allergy UK website as a web-based, self-managed process through which schools will be able to download SAAG materials at each stage, self-assessing the outcomes of each before they are able to move on.

The seven stages are:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to be in relation to food allergies?
  • Empowering collaboration
  • How are we going to achieve our objectives
  • Drawing it all together and creating a policy
  • The end product – embedding of SAAG
  • Regular review and assessment of the impact on our school.

Allergy UK and Food to Fit have led the design of the Toolkit and supporting resources to reflect European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EACCI) guidance on managing patients with food allergies, Department of Education guidance on supporting pupils with medical conditions at school and EU legislation for food labelling.

Feedback from the schools involved in the development of the programme has highlighted increasing awareness of the risk of an incident and, particularly, how an incident at school can be a ‘wake-up call’ to the need for robust allergy management practices.  Asked why they approached SAAG for support, one case study school commented: “Experiencing an incident gave us the warning we needed to make some rigorous changes in our approach to allergy management and, just as importantly, in the approach of the whole school community towards allergy management”.

The SAAG experience has been documented in case studies prepared by the pilot schools which are available on the Allergy UK website. As well as outlining the process, these give some useful insights into the experiences of the teams involved in their positive collaboration towards establishing an effective structure for whole school allergy policy development and monitoring. With the policy in place, these schools are fulfilling their responsibilities for managing their allergic pupils’ needs, as well as improving understanding and awareness of allergy on a broader scale.  There are also videos on the Allergy UK website which will help schools understand the key issues they need to consider for whole school allergy management.

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