A new Ministry of Education policy—requiring school boards to educate staff and ensure that care plans are developed for students with potentially life-threatening medical conditions—is an important first step to keeping children and youth with diabetes safe at school. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) and Diabetes Canada are urging the Ministry to take the next step by requiring schools to designate staff to help with specific aspects of daily and emergency management, as opposed to relying on volunteers.
“Having policies, individualized care plans and training for staff will help improve the situation for many students and their families. At the same time, there’s still more work to be done to ensure equitable support across Ontario, which is why Diabetes Canada will continue its advocacy role for children with diabetes,” said Russell Williams, vice president of Government Relations and Public Policy with Diabetes Canada.
Ontario’s new Policy/Program Memorandum (PPM) requires each school board to have a policy on Prevalent Medical Conditions (including anaphylaxis, asthma, epilepsy and diabetes) by September1, 2018. Currently, many of the province’s 72 school boards have no guidelines about what supports children with diabetes should receive. Many parents face an annual struggle to secure help for their children.
“Managing type 1 diabetes requires frequent blood sugar checks, attention to food and physical activity, and administering insulin,” said Dr. Sarah Lawrence, a paediatric endocrinologist and author of the CPS statement on type 1 diabetes in school. “Many children, particularly young ones, will need help with these tasks. It is encouraging to see that the government is developing a policy and specific care plans to support students with diabetes. It is not clear from the current policy that the school boards will help to identify who will provide these supports during school hours.”
The Canadian Paediatric Society and Diabetes Canada have been advocating for a comprehensive policy on medical conditions, including diabetes, which provides equitable supports to meet students’ individual needs. An essential component is ensuring that schools identify and train personnel to support students.
“Diabetes is not a static condition, so it’s critical that school personnel be educated, equipped and available to support students,” said Dr Lawrence. “Over time, both high and low blood sugars can affect learning, so it’s important to do everything we can to keep students’ glucose levels in their target range.”
The organizations are urging parents to provide feedback on the draft PPM to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry has indicated it will release a finalized policy early in 2018, and will work towards further addressing the supports needed for students’ daily management needs post-fall 2018 in a second phase of this initiative.
A Policy/Program Memorandum is issued to district school boards and school authorities to outline the Ministry of Education’s expectations regarding the implementation of ministry policies and programs.
About Diabetes Canada
Diabetes Canada is the registered national charitable organization that is making the invisible epidemic of diabetes visible and urgent. Diabetes Canada partners with Canadians to End Diabetes through:
- Resources for health care professionals on best practices to care for people with diabetes;
- Advocacy to governments, schools and workplaces; and
- Funding world-leading Canadian research to improve treatments and find a cure.
For more information, visit diabetes.ca or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).