Millions of Brits put other kids at risk by sending sick children into school
A poll of 2,000 parents of children aged three to 16 found work pressures and attendance figures mean seven in 10 have sent their offspring into school or nursery when they are feeling ill or under the weather. And six in 10 admitted their child has still attended classes when suffering with a contagious infection such as a cold or stomach bug. More than a third even believe an illness has spread around the school after they sent in their ill youngster.
The study, commissioned by hygiene and health company Essity as part of a School Hygiene Essentials Initiative, found almost one in four parents has even asked their child to lie about how unwell they were feeling in order to attend school as normal.
Liam Mynes, public health manager at Essity, said: “Juggling childcare with work can be difficult at the best of times, but when a child is unexpectedly sick, it can be a real challenge working out how to keep them off school and manage your job or workload.
“However, an unwell child can cause real issues for the school and lead to an illness affecting more children, and teachers too.
“Through the School Hygiene Essentials Initiative, we’re aiming to help expose and tackle the hygiene issues that are ultimately holding children back when it comes to health, wellbeing and education – one of the critical areas that needs to be addressed is how we stop the spread of illness at schools.”
Matthew Burton, headteacher of Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury and star of Educating Yorkshire, supports Essity in encouraging discussion around the issue.
He said: “For teachers, our main priority is ensuring that pupils are happy and healthy at school so they can achieve their potential.
“As a parent of two youngsters, I completely understand the challenges parents face when their children are ill.
“I hope that by talking about different situations, we can help parents and support kids to get the most out of their time at school.”
The study also revealed that almost 70 percent of parents have sent their child into classes with a cold, while 17 percent have still gone in with diarrhoea or vomiting.
Other children have gone to school with chicken pox, before the spots have fully scabbed over (14 percent), an ear infection (22 percent) or a viral infection (19 percent).
But while school attendance rates and work pressures are the most common reasons for sending their children into school when they’re feeling unwell, almost three in 10 do so as they can’t take any time off work.
And more than one in five worry about what it will look like to their colleagues if they miss work to look after their sick children.
More than a quarter of parents have even sent their unwell children off to school because the youngster didn’t want to miss something important, such as a school trip or sports day.
However, 64 percent of those who have sent their child in while they were feeling unwell ended up getting a phone call asking them to collect their youngster early.
The study, carried out via OnePoll, found that 51 percent worry about the bugs and illnesses their child could pick up from school or nursery, with 31 percent concerned about the cleanliness of their child’s school or nursery.
It also emerged that parents have gone into work themselves when they feel under the weather, suffering through four days in the office each year.
Four in 10 worry they aren’t ‘ill enough’ to take time off work, 29 percent say their workload is too big and 19 percent feel they already take too much time off work to deal with their child’s illnesses.
Peter Cansell, national executive information officer at the National Association of Primary Education, added: “It’s important for children and parents to feel supported to take time off for illness when needed.
“This avoids the spread of infection and makes for a healthier learning environment.
“This campaign will help enormously to alert schools to the potential problems for children, parents and teachers when children are sent to school ill.”
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