Thursday, 22 August 2013

Starting school- as easy as ABC?

I guess for any parent your child starting school is going to be emotional. The disbelief that they have grown up so quickly, the worry about whether they'll make friends, the concern that they'll enjoy it and fit in (and secretly hoping they won't be thick as two planks and will keep up with the school work!). With Alexandra due to start school in September, I've had the added worry about how school is going to manage with her gluten-free diet.

When Alex was in a day nursery, we had quite a few accidents until we had the processes in place to protect her (see more here). We certainly got there in the end, but it took a while.

For the past year, Alex has been going to a pre-school for three hours a day. She wasn't eating meals there, and luckily, we had no gluten accidents. There were lots of examples of really good, inclusive practice when Alex was at pre-school, but also a few things that happened that made my heart sink.

For organised activities, the pre-school was fantastic. Alexandra's teacher was lovely and asked me where she could get gluten-free porridge when they were doing Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Asda do sachets if you need some for your little bear!) She also found a G-F recipe for the ginger bread men they made and double checked it with me. There were lots things like this where they were spot on.

Some of the less good issues were just a result of thoughtlessness or lack of understanding, for example the teaching assistants offering Alex chocolates on the way out of school on birthdays. At Christmas, they were making sandwiches for the kids and asked us to bring in some G-F bread so they could do some for Alex- a quick 101 in avoiding cross-contamination was required. My worst heart sink moment was at the summer party (when I came straight from work so had no spare treats in my bag). There was biscuit decorating (noooo), squash and biscuits (noooooo), and some ice pops, which would probably have been ok except the box had been thrown out so I couldn't check ingredients (nooooooo)! That said, Alex's teacher was very keen to learn about Coeliac's and I think will be a lot more confident if she has any kids with the condition in her class in the future.

Alexandra's new 'big school' is not connected to the preschool, so is another unknown. At the parent introduction evening we approached one of the teachers to ask whether it would be possible for the school to cater for Alex's condition. (Kids are in school until 3.30 in the UK, so have the option of having a hot school meal instead of bringing in a packed lunch). The teacher requested a letter from our GP to confirm that Alex had the condition, and agreed to meet to discuss how to manage it. When we went in for Alex's visit, she had obviously discussed the condition with the cooks, who told her they had catered for kids with Coeliac's before and it should be fine. She asked for any written info about what Alex could and couldn't eat so I directed her to the Coeliac UK website (they have a section for caterers on it http://www.coeliac.org.uk/food-industry/caterers-and-restaurateurs/caterers-and-restaurateurs-faqs). We also agreed that it would be useful for me to bring in a 'treat box' of things that Alex can have if other children bring in birthday cake or anything like that. In September we will be writing up a care plan highlighting any special measures that the school will put in place to manage the condition and this will be reviewed and updated if there are any issues. Watch this space.....!

When Alex was initially diagnosed, the consultant told us that the move to school, when she would be out of our sight more and wanting to assert her independence, was a time to be ultra-vigilant. At the time it seemed like forever away, and now it's looming. Overall, I'm feeling hopeful about the diet- now just need to worry about how to convince Alex that pink shoes aren't appropriate for a navy uniform and that writing looks better going across the page instead of down the side!

Jen

PS: this is the ginger bread recipe that the school used. I can't comment on taste as it was gone by the time I picked her up- probably a good sign!

340g plain G-F flour
4oz softened butter/ marg
100g soft brown sugar
190g golden syrup
2 teasp ground ginger
1 teasp bicarbonate of soda


  • preheat over to 190 degrees C.
  • Beat the sugar and marg together until light and creamy.
  • Add the golden syrup and sift in flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Mix until a rough crumb begins to form and then work the mixture into a smooth dough using your hands.
  • Refrigerate dough for 10 mins or so until firm.
  • Roll out dough between 2 sheets of cling film or baking parchment until 4mm thick.
  • Cut out shapes using cookie cutter or roll out small balls and flatten slightly onto a non-stick baking sheet or tray lined with baking parchment.
  • Bake for 8-10 mins until golden brown. Let cool on tray for a minute or two then transfer to wire rack.




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