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Freedom of information requests submitted by Stamford mum following death of son Benedict Blythe reveal schools in England are putting food allergic children at risk





Pupils with food allergies are being put at risk because of systemic failings in how allergies are managed in schools, according to research by a foundation set up in memory of a five-year-old boy.

Helen Blythe, from Stamford, has been campaigning for urgent changes to the law following the death of her son Benedict on December 1, 2021 after he collapsed at Barnack Primary School and died from an anaphylactic allergic reaction.

She believes attending an allergy safe school should not be a matter of chance or a postcode lottery.

Benedict Blythe
Benedict Blythe

“Measures need to be put in place to keep children with allergies in England safe – what is in place now is not good enough.

“Pupils and their families deserve better,” said Helen.

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Under the foundation she set up in Benedict’s name, freedom of information requests on the subject of allergies were made to more than 20,000 schools in England. Responses from about 2,000 schools were received and analysed.

Helen Blythe. Photo: Lucy Glen
Helen Blythe. Photo: Lucy Glen

It was found one in three schools do not have recommended allergy safeguards in place.

Helen said: “Since Benedict died I have been trying to get a clearer picture of what’s going on in our schools.

“Current legislation makes only modest requests of schools and falls far below the recommended good practice outlined by clinicians, allergy charities and coroners following inquests into fatal anaphylaxis reactions in children during school.

“Unfortunately, this report highlights a systemic failing in safe allergy provision for pupils with allergies.

“Gaps in allergy communication, medication and education are putting children at risk of severe illness or death.

“In some instances schools are not meeting their legal obligations, and only 31% adhere to good practice.”

Allergy management varies widely and it is down to chance whether a child’s school has recommended allergy safeguards in place.

Helen believes rates of staff training on basic allergy knowledge is poor, with a quarter of schools providing no training on allergy symptoms, anaphylaxis and what to do in an emergency.

According to the report, almost half of schools don’t hold their own life-saving allergy medication, relying on a child having their own medication, which they often don’t.

Helen believes a large-scale change is needed from the government to implement new measures.

Last year Helen set up a petition asking the government to introduce new requirements to protect pupils with allergies in school, which received 13,027 signatures.

The Government responded saying ‘that existing guidance is appropriate’ and ‘schools/governing bodies are best placed to make decisions about individual pupils’.

“I hope this report will empower the government to look more into this,” said Helen.

“They said everything is OK but actually our findings show it’s not.

“The government needs to take more of a role providing direction and I hope they take this as an opportunity to.”

The Blythe family remains without answers two-and-a-half years after Benedict’s death as the inquest hearing is not scheduled.

Benedict is described as being ‘curious, with bubbling enthusiasm and kindness, which was his real superpower’.

Helen understands the report is likely worrying for parents of children with allergies so encourages them to visit www.benedictblythe.com for resources and support.



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