Berlin-Brandenburg International School (BBIS) has become the first school to receive the ECARF quality seal for allergy-friendly products and services. The school located in Kleinmachnow near Berlin fulfils the detailed evaluation criteria of the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF). The goal of the certification was to give teachers, students and parents more assurance when it comes to dealing with allergies and to create an environment that responds to the special requirements of students who suffer from an allergy and who come from a multicultural background. BBIS provides lessons for around 700 children of different nationalities from grades 1 to 12. English is the language of instruction.
“Children with allergies are often faced with serious health drawbacks, especially if they are exposed to an environment where allergies are not taken seriously enough or where too little is known about their condition,” says Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h. c. Torsten Zuberbier, head of the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF). “Tiredness, a chronic lack of concentration, and even anxiety and low self-esteem are just some of the symptoms. When untreated, allergies can seriously impair the sufferer’s quality of life and learning.”
“Helping our students to become independent is one of our school’s main objectives,” remarks Peter Kotrc, Director & CEO of Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS). “This path includes recognising their strengths and weaknesses and dealing with these as part of a healthy self-management approach. ECARF is a specific and very important component of our overall mission.”
A study carried out in the UK found that students with untreated hay fever face a significantly increased risk of dropping a grade during the summer examinations.* Allergies not only impair students’ performance, but also result in more frequent absences from school.
During the months-long certification process, standard procedures for allergy-related emergencies were developed, the corresponding legal questions were clarified, the filter efficiency of vacuum cleaners was checked, soap for sensitive skin was introduced, and all the plants in the school buildings were screened regarding their allergenic potential. The school restaurant, which is run by an external caterer, has also been confirmed as allergy-friendly following an audit.
Students from all grade levels, teachers and parents received training from ECARF experts in separately organised events. The topics ranged from “What do I need to check first if I want to swap my sandwich?” to how best to integrate children with a serious allergy on a school trip.
Allergies have become widespread among children and teenagers. A study conducted by the Robert Koch Institute on the health of children and adolescents in Germany found lifetime prevalences of 4.7% for asthma, 10.7% for hay fever and 13.2% for atopic eczema.**
* Walker S et al: Seasonal allergic rhinitis is associated with a detrimental effect on examination performance in United Kingdom teenagers: Case-control study. J ALLERGY CLIN IMMUNOL 120 (2007) 381-387
** RKI Survey KiGGS Basiserhebung, 05/2003–05/2006