Posted by on Sunday, 10 August 2014

Need to know - Diabetes UK's Make the Grade Campaign

In this latest guest post for Diabetes UK I've been invited to think about their fantastic 'Make the Grade' campaign to improve care for children with type 1 diabetes in schools.

There are a lot of things that you can learn.

Really. Lots.

The world is a big place, and almost everything about it has a bewildering level of complexity and detail that can be known. And however much you know, or think you know about anything, there is still more that can be learned.

As an example (I think I am nicking this from QI, but it may well be a conversation I had with my father-in-law about maps) the UK is an island, and you can find authoritative estimates of the length of its coastline. I say estimates, because of course coastlines being what they are, all 'wibbly-wobbly', cartographers quite rightly usually measure a series of straight lines from point-A to point-B without going around absolutely all the wibbles (what Slartibartfast described as the 'lovely crinkly edges'). In fact if you wanted a more detailed and empirical measurement, you would need to carefully measure in and out of each tiny inlet and rivulet; and decide how far inland to stop measuring the rivers. You would suddenly have a whole lot more coastline to measure. But more than that, each of these inlets are made up of still smaller imperfections which each have an edge than can be measured. And down and down to a grain of sand level where you could, if you had quite a bit of time on your hands, measure around each fragment of rock, each plant cell, each molecule.

So it turns out that the length of the UK's coastline is pretty much infinite.

The more you look, the more you see.

And so it is that most of us spend most of our time deliberately ignoring most things. The world is just far too complex and difficult to comprehend otherwise. We live our lives on a 'need to know' basis, and mostly what we need to know to get by in the world is almost nothing about everything. The merest fragments. Therefore, by extension, we can't expect everyone to know very much about a subject, even if we have decided to learn quite a lot about it ourselves.

Can you tell me where to find all the hidden ammo packs and weapons stashes on the second 'Venice' level of Tomb Raider 2? Well quite. You do??? Dude, let it go - it was getting on for 20 years ago.

I was diagnosed at age 21, in the final year of my degree. Like almost everyone I knew absolutely nothing about type 1 diabetes when I had *that* conversation with the GP who had the results of my Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. At a push I might have been able to tell you that it had something to do with sugar and not being able to eat stuff (I know!). I saw something on Twitter this week by someone who had an overwhelming desire to eat an entire pack of doughnuts in the days before they had their diagnosis conversation, just because they 'still could'. I remember that feeling myself. That in some ways the conversation with a sober-faced Doctor was the dividing line that separated the old life from the new. I remember asking for sugar in my coffee on the diabetes ward, and wondering if honey would be OK as a substitute for table sugar because it was, you know, 'natural'.


It took me a long time to learn just a little about living with type 1 diabetes, and an even longer time to unlearn some of the misconceptions I picked up along the way. I've been juggling life and my diabetes for just short of 25 years, and I now consider myself to be a semi-competent beginner.

Managing type 1 diabetes is like measuring the coastline of the UK. Managing type 1 diabetes in children and young people is like measuring it with a magnifying glass. It is almost infinitely complex.

It is no wonder schools need support. It is absolutely no wonder that some schools really struggle to help children and young people with diabetes and other long term conditions effectively. Every child is different and has a unique set of needs and support requirements. Every child with type 1 diabetes doubly so and twice on Thursdays.

And yet there is hope - there are beacons of great care and lessons that can be learned elsewhere. If you are connected to a school, nursery or college that is not quite stepping up to the mark diabetes-wise, now is the time for action.

Fanstastic care and support for children with type 1 and their families is possible. It is happening all across the country. Make the Grade is about providing help and information to schools, nurseries, colleges and clubs that are finding it hard to rise to the challenge of type 1. It is about getting the best care for each child so that they can maximise their potential.

Make the Grade offers a practical, focussed toolkit and information for improving care. Good job too, because as of September 2014 proper support and care for T1 children and young people in schools becomes a legal requirement. This is no longer something that can be put on the back burner because, you know, it's a bit tricky.

If you are a teacher, parent or governor and want to know how 'Make the Grade' can make a difference to children in your care, visit the Diabetes UK website to find out more.

Good care for children with Type 1 diabetes is possible. Many schools provide fantastic support to children with Type 1, but some have concerns about how best to look after children with the condition.

A new law in England means that from September 2014 schools in England must make sure children with Type 1 diabetes are properly supported. But good care needs happen right across the UK, whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Schools have responsibilities for children with long-term medical conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes, so they need to know how to ensure children have the right care and support to enable them to take part in all aspects of school life.
That’s why Diabetes UK has produced new resources for schools which provide practical tips and information on how best to support children with Type 1 diabetes so that they are able to make the most of their time at school. Their Type 1 diabetes at school: School pack is packed to the brim with useful information, including a sample medical conditions policy, information about the condition and how best to support children and young people who have it, answers to important questions, like how to store insulin, what training staff might need and much, much more.

The free school pack is available to order on the Diabetes UK website at

(from the 'Make the Grade' Action toolkit)

1 comment:

  1. Nice share, diabetes is a common condition. Unfortunately, I think it is not fully understood yet since there is still no cure to reverse the problem. Most of the treatment options are only helpful to manage the disease - but not to cure!

    Hopefully, someday it can be cured!

    Thanks, just my 2 cents