Inclusion at Schools for Vegan Children

We love making friends at the Vegan kids festival – in fact it’s one of the things we do best!

Today we wanted to introduce you to one of our newest friends Laura Chepner, Laura is from Bury, Greater Manchester and is the first vegan education consultant in the UK.

We were really excited to find out about what she does and think it is a vital and important service to Vegan Kids.  Dana, creator of fun at the Vegan Kids festival was keen to get in touch with Laura as she felt they were on very similar paths and missions, Both Dana and Laura, had existing businesses, Dana Owner of Goodfayre a vegan shop based in Salisbury and Laura was the proprietor of Lolo’s Vegan Restaurant for a few years immediately after turning vegan.

Both, wanted to find a way to share their new found passion in Veganism and spread the message through education and outreach work with Children. Laura comes from a teaching background and so primary veducation was born. Laura created Primary Veducation off the back of her daughter being refused vegan school meals in her Reception year. She was also acutely aware of the various topics taught in schools and misconceptions that many teachers had which led to vegan children feeling different or left out.

Dana simulary created the Vegan Kids festival from a similar feeling that Vegan Children are being left out in school, Dana wants to create a vegan world for the weekend at the First Vegan Kids festival, where vegan Children feel part of something much bigger and to know that they are not alone, so the obvious connection between the two has made a great choice for our first featured business blog post!

So What is Primary Veducation all about? Laura will visit schools and educate the staff on what veganism is. She does this in a friendly and informative way so that they are able to see the world through the vegan child’s eyes. Once they can confidently do this then they are able to plan their teaching and learning practice accordingly. She has also visited schools where she has spoken to children about their vegan peers and shared stories to better their understanding of what it means to be vegan. She has written lesson plans, changed topics for teachers and is currently writing a soon-to-be published book called, ‘an Educators Guide to a Vegan Inclusive Education.’ She also work with councils, in implementing vegan menus at school.

Vegan Children need to feel included in schools and society, as Vegan adults we are often subjected to abuse and ridicule at our lifestyle choices and this can be hard for us to deal with, it’s even harder for a child to understand and deal with and Laura’s service, will hopefully become a lifeline to Vegan Children across the country. Laura feels schools need to understand a vegan Lifestyle so it can create an inclusive curriculum that does not go against a Vegan childs values “As far as I am concerned there is no way that a school can call itself an inclusive institution if it is teaching zoos to a vegan.”

Often Laura will attend the school on the request of parents who simply wish for their child to be understood and differentiated for. Her services are completely free as she believe it is more important to get the vegan word out there and to help these children and families feel valued in their educational settings.Thankfully the number of vegans is rising and so awareness is growing but there are a lot of children currently in school feeling excluded, declining trips and missing out on lessons due to the fact that the teachers simply don’t know how to be vegan-inclusive.

Vegan children all up and down the country will be facing different dilemmas each day. Whether its interacting with the class pet, learning about matadors or eating something unsuitable by accident. The problem is that the vast majority of teachers don’t know or don’t care about veganism. The biggest problem facing our vegan kids is the lack of training and support for teachers whose care they find themselves in. This is why Laura does what she does, spread awareness about vegan-inclusion and she is pushing for legislation to be changed to include veganism on the curriculum and in teacher training courses.

We asked Laura what parents can do if they feel their children are being left out in schools and here’s the advice she gave us.

“I would always advocate for striking up a great relationship with your head and class teacher. Don’t ever apologise for your interactions, ‘me again, sorry’ makes you look like you’re mitering when in actual fact you are educating. Always speak to new teachers before your child starts with them and be consistent with what you will and will not accept. Offer to come in and speak to teachers and be an integral part of school and school life even if you receive resistance at first. Appreciate that teachers are very busy people but also never forget that your child goes to school in a system that claims, ‘Every Child Matters’.”

Laura Chepner

Going forward Laura hopes for vegan-inclusive legislation,vegan-inclusive curriculum and vegan-inclusive lunchtimes at all schools, across the board and is hopeful that this is an achievable aim in our lifetime.

You can find out more about Laura and her work here

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