As many as 1.3 million children in England and Wales are at risk of developing diabetes, according to the first ever global survey of school pupils.
The survey, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), found that nearly three-quarters of schools across the UK are not providing any of the primary and secondary education that pupils need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
It found that almost one-third of primary schools are not teaching pupils about diabetes and one-quarter of secondary schools are missing out on this key part of the education system.
The UK is the only country to not have a comprehensive diabetes education programme.
It has one of the lowest rates of diabetes among developed countries, with an average rate of one in five pupils having the condition.
However, the survey found that the percentage of schools providing diabetes education was much higher in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where nearly 80 per cent of pupils had the condition in the year before the survey was taken.
The figures come as the government plans to spend £1.5bn to expand the NHS diabetes programme, the first such scheme since the NHS was privatised in 2008.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said it was committed to making it easier for pupils to learn about diabetes, with the aim of giving pupils access to more effective diabetes education and prevention services.
A report from the Royal College of Nursing and Public Health (RCNHP) warned that the UK’s poor record on diabetes was a major reason why many children did not reach the required levels of diabetes education.
The RCNHP’s deputy director, Peter Tice, said: “While the government has made great strides in tackling the disease in the past few years, it’s important to remember that despite our best efforts, we’re still just one-fifth of the way to preventing diabetes and that our best hope is that as diabetes numbers continue to grow and get worse, we’ll see the UK lead the way globally.”
We’re still a long way from being able to eliminate diabetes completely, but the good news is that we have a clear pathway forward in which we can take the next steps towards that goal.
“The RCNs report also found that children in primary and second-level schools have lower levels of awareness of diabetes than pupils in other parts of the country.
“In primary schools, the proportion of pupils who are aware of their condition is significantly higher than in secondary or third-level schooling.” “
Our research suggests that the number of children who are unaware of the condition is far higher in secondary schools than primary schools,” Dr Tice said.
“In primary schools, the proportion of pupils who are aware of their condition is significantly higher than in secondary or third-level schooling.”
The report also showed that the average age of pupils with diabetes in primary school is 14.7 years.
“The average age for those with diabetes at primary school was 11.9 years,” Dr Paddy Watson, director of the RCNHS, said.
The report found that many schools have an average of 1,000 pupils with the condition, but only a quarter of schools in England were offering more than 50 pupils with this condition.
It also found a “significant number” of secondary school pupils were missing out because of the lack of diabetes awareness.
“For some schools, this means pupils do not have diabetes awareness training and in other schools it means they don’t have an awareness of the conditions,” Dr Watson said.
He said that although the majority of schools are providing some level of diabetes literacy, it was essential for pupils with other health conditions, and that some schools were not providing diabetes awareness or support.
The National Diabetes Education Trust (NDET) said the findings highlighted the need for more support for pupils who do not fully understand their condition.
“We need to provide schools with the tools to give pupils with various health conditions the confidence to learn more about diabetes,” said Dr Paul Macdonald, the National Diabetes Trust’s chief executive.
“More schools are teaching pupils to talk to others about their condition, to talk about their own body’s response to insulin and to ask their friends and family about their diabetes.”
If we want our kids to have a better chance of reaching their full potential, schools must be aware of the issues, support them, and ensure they are provided with the right support and information to help them become healthy and strong.
“Find out more about the diabetes education sector here.
How do you prevent diabetes?
‘Diabetes can be avoided if you’re aware’ As a child, if you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you may have been told by your GP that it was a problem with your pancreas, or that you were a risk to your health.
But today, the symptoms of type 1 can be so mild that most people are unaware they are having the disease.
People with type 2 diabetes can experience symptoms of the disease