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What about children who have special dietary needs, or who are following a medically prescribed diet?

Food and drink provided as part of a medically recommended diet is specifically excluded from the Regulations; nonetheless, in general, children with special dietary needs have the same nutritional requirements as other children their age, and the food provided for them in the school context must meet the same nutritional standards. Following the recommendations of the Hungry for Success initiative, education authorities are expected to have in place a policy for delivering, in partnership with parents and carers, medically prescribed diets, and appropriate provision for children with special educational needs.

If a child is provided with particular products on prescription, for example gluten-free bread, it may be possible for parents to provide a quantity of these to school caterers to use when preparing a meal. Guidance from the Executive on diet and nutrition for children with additional support needs indicates that schools should respect parents’ wishes and discuss fully whether any dietary requests can be met. The school may need to consult medical specialists working with the child. The Guidance classes it as essential that where a child is being provided with a special diet, a member of staff is identified as primarily responsible for ensuring that the lunch provided is nutritionally complete, and that caterers are informed fully in writing. Feedback from the child in question should be sought and taken into account, as appropriate; in carrying out their duties under the Standards in Scotland's Schools Etc Act 2000, Education Authorities are obliged to have “due regard” so far as is “reasonably practicable” to the views of young people in “decisions that significantly affect them, taking into account children's or young person's age and maturity”.


There are further relevant duties incumbent upon local authorities. The first is contained in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 to ensure that the school environment is conducive to the “good health and safety of all persons occupying or frequenting the premises”; this is of especial relevance when considering children for whom exposure to an allergenic food could have, in some cases potentially fatal, consequences. The second is contained in the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004 to make adequate and efficient provision for such additional support as is required by that child or young person, and to make provision for keeping these needs, and provision for them, under review. Although the exception to this is that such provision would entail unreasonable public expenditure, Guidance from Scottish Ministers on the provision of food for children with special dietary needs indicates that this duty should impact on initial catering budgets, and that head teachers should communicate with catering managers to ensure that needs are met.