Reducing absence in the classroom: the importance of pupil well-being

Research evidence shows that education and health are closely linked. (Public Health England, 2014). Pupils with better health and well-being are likely to achieve better academically. With this in mind, schools play an important role in supporting the health and well-being of children and young people. Teachers are working harder than ever to improve and raise standards academically, and one of the ways to support this agenda is by promoting health, safety and hygiene within the school. Increased sick days, demoralised staff and a negative school reputation are all consequences that can come about by failing to put the right measures in place for optimal hygiene. The connection between effective washroom facilities and hygiene to absenteeism levels, which have a direct effect in school inspections and league tables is well established. School inspectors take note of toilet facilities in their reports. Partner with the right hygiene provider and stay up-to-date with the latest school legislation and guidance.

A secondary side-effect of unsanitary washroom facilities is the disinclination of pupils to use school toilets, which can have short-term and even long term damage on their health. Large scale studies in Europe have shown that only 34% of pupils used the school toilet daily. (Metsa Tissue 2007-2008). To avoid using toilets, children do not drink enough throughout the day, resulting in dehydration which can also have serious consequences, not only on health as noted above, but on concentration levels, majorly impacting their educational performance. A hygienic and well-maintained washroom will encourage pupils to use the toilets regularly, an important factor in improving health and well-being.

Another issue to have emerged recently in the media concerning pupil absenteeism is period equality. Schoolgirls are routinely missing school because they are unable to afford sanitary products, choosing to stay at home because they are not adequately protected. They miss school every month because they cannot face the shame and fear of going to school using socks or tissues. The stigma around periods is distressing for pupils who can’t afford sanitary products, and this shame is having a serious effect on the education, health and general quality of life for thousands of teenage girls in the UK.

Our purpose-designed free-vend dispenser was created in response to the growing period equality agenda and rise in demand from our customers. Free-vend machines are a real solution as installing these within washrooms gives females who need it instant and discreet access to sanitary products without the embarrassment or inconvenience of having to visit an office or school nurse. The products are also stored appropriately so they are kept clean and dry, dispensing one item at a time as needed.

The phs slim line free-vend machines stock individually-wrapped sanitary products and can be accessed without the use of a coin. As we strive to help promote period equality, phs free-vend machines offer a discreet and convenient solution to our customers, enabling you to offer products to young girls who cannot afford them.

Keeping pupils healthy in a school environment can be a challenge, and germs and airborne viruses can spread easily and quickly, aided by the daily proximity of the children to each other. According to the Department of Education, illness remains the most common reason for absence, accounting for 57.9 per cent of all absences in 2013/14.

Hand washing is a highly effective method of infection control. In premises such as schools, where there are lots of children who don’t consider what, or the amount of different objects they touch on an almost constant basis, hand washing is a vital exercise. The Department of Education specifies that “hand washing facilities must be provided within or in the immediate vicinity of every toilet”. Complying with this means that schools are promoting a healthy environment where prevention is better than cure. Soap dispensers are essential in controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Stay on top of cross-contamination by having regular service visits by a trusted service provider.

Drying hands effectively is as important as washing. Wet hands have been known to transfer germs much more readily than dry hands or hands not washed at all (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention). Many children shy away from using hand dryers as the noise and force of the air can often be a scary proposition. The Airstream Whisper hand dryer, often positioned in locations where a discreet hand drying solution is required, may provide the solution. Certified quiet, this warm air hand dryer is not only cheap to run, but also hygienic and child friendly.

Data shows that every year in September there is a peak in admissions for children having an asthma attack. ( The cause of this is not clear, however it is believed that when children return to school they are exposed to a number of new environmental factors that can trigger an asthma attack. Children are also exposed to new viruses which can be another trigger of an asthma attack. With air quality an issue in many inner-city areas and indoor air containing up to five times more contaminants than outdoor air, air purification products that improve the air quality within a school will have a significant positive impact on pupil absenteeism. For example, the AeraMax Professional Pureview air purification system removes 99.9% of harmful germs, allergens and particulates as small as 0.3 microns. Respiratory illness – colds, flu, allergies and asthma are the main reasons for doctor visits each year. Air purification systems, which clean the air from contaminants and odours not only improve air quality, but in doing so improve mental tasks like concentration and recall.

Missing lessons due to illness can prevent pupils from reaching their potential; it’s therefore vital that bacteria and viruses are prevented from spreading around the school wherever possible. Precautions such as handwashing facilities with liquid soap and air purification systems will help to prevent the spread of infection, stopping students from needing to take sickness-related absence.

Let’s break the taboo of talking about toilets. See how we can help to make your washroom facility a safe and hygienic place for pupils.

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