International Schools and Allergies

Coming from the UK certain practices are standard.  In almost all student handbook there is explicit instructions to parents not to send in nuts or nut based products to the schools as there may be children with allergies.  At the nursery my son briefly attended the preparatory work carried out prior to his arrival was exceptional.  A thorough instruction manual was distributed to all staff at the nursery and my son had a placement that highlighted his allergy.  This I later noticed was done for all other allergy sufferer in the nursery.  In addition on the classroom door there was a little note highlighting whether a particular class had children with allergies and what these allergies were.

Upon arriving in Shanghai I realised that allergen free schools were far from standard.  After enrolling our son in one international school and being assured it was a nut free school I observed on the weekly menu that nuts were to be served during all the snack times.  The school was immediately contacted and they confirmed they did serve nuts  – but not peanuts.  This was extremely alarming to me as my son’s allergy was to all nuts.  I was soon asked to remove my son.  Not only was my son no longer in a school but we were out of pocket by a considerably large sum of money.

Many International Schools here in Shanghai still refuses to take children with allergies and those who do limit the number of allergy sufferers they take.  All International School in Shanghai require a detailed waiver be signed that indemnifies them of any liability should the allergy sufferer come into contact with an allergen.  Back in the UK nearly all these waivers would be inapplicable but where you have limited option you are forced to take what you can get.

My proposal is very simple:  International Schools are supposed to be schools who subscribe to international standards.  They are accredited by international accreditation organisations and they all boast of their internationally accredited status.  They are mostly managed and staffed  by expats who are very versed on the subject of allergy.  Despite this however, international schools are very reluctant to brand themselves “allergen free schools”.   

It would be a step in the right direction for international schools to eradicate this absurd practice of limiting the number of allergy suffers and its practice of  refusing  to take children  with allergies.  The main objective of a school is to educate.  What lesson is it passing on when it refuses entry to a child because of something they have no control over?  To be good educators should we not first be good learners.   

If you are truly International then you really should be implementing International standards throughout.  Allergy suffers are a minority group and as our environment becomes more polluted and our population grow the number  of children being born with allergies will increase.  It therefore goes without saying that it would be to your advantage to begin now rather than later to address this issue.  Turning a blind eye or hiding your head in the sand is not the way to go.

I know that many parents with allergy sufferers would love to share their knowledge.

So International Schools – if you are truly International then act like it.  Do not water down your standards like so many others do when they get here.  Ensure there is consistency in all areas.

International Schools, Mums and Dads, keep our schools and children allergen free.



Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy at

4 responses to “International Schools and Allergies

  1. As a son with a peanut and tree nut allergy we are very pleased with how YCIS has handled it, especially his teachers. He has the sign on his classroom door, the teachers also sent emails out highlighting NO NUTS, school confirmed with cafeteria absolutely no peanut oil or any other nuts are served (with me standing right next to her), and listened and practiced the epipen. His teachers are more on the safe side (which I love) and for whatever reason if they have any question about a food brought in to share he does not eat it. I have special treats for him at school if that’s the case. That being said, the school nurse is the one who needs more training, as she appeared to have no clue what an epipen was!! However, I trust him with his teachers 110% more than I do the nurse 🙂

  2. It’s always surprising to me that so many places seem completely unaware of the life threatening nature of food allergies. While our children are not enrolled in International School I certainly agree that they need to step up their game in terms of not only food allergy issues but frankly special needs as well. They seem happy to prepare and advertise their successful students of their select choosing but if you don’t fall into their parameters you are not allowed. Shameful really.

  3. Allergies, particularly environmental allergies, can develop over time, usually due to chronic exposure. So what do schools do if their existing students develop an allergy once enrolled?

  4. My daughter has not any allergies yet, but I think the BISSPUXI handles with this issue quite well. The food does not contain nuts and the children are not allowed to bring any nuts – even not in their own snack box to school. If the children have a party at school, the parents are reminded not to bring any food which contains nuts and they are even asked to send in a list with the ingredients of the food they send to school. In addition the teacher tell the children not to bring in any nuts, so that my daughter also reminds me from time to time how the snack box or food I donate has to be! 🙂

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