School Management -
Hygiene is a vitally important element of maintaining health. This page has information on
The potential benefits to schools of providing hygienic toilets and properly furnished handwashing and drying facilities (and encouraging pupils to use these as appropriate) include:
- Fewer school days missed – which can have a knock on effect on parents for childcare arrangements together with education lost for children
- Fewer illness for children especially diarrhoea and vomiting and respiratory illness
- Less visits to GPs
- Potentially less use of antibiotics
- Fewer outbreaks of infectious disease
A study in America gathered baseline data for a year on infections in children before an infection control intervention. The findings from this study were a significant decrease in total illness, with downward trends in respiratory illness, gastrointestinal illness, visits to the GP, antibiotic use and school days missed. Another study showed how a comprehensive handwashing programme reduced absenteeism. For more information and references see our factsheet.
Keeping toilets and washrooms clean
Good hygiene is particularly important in schools. Toilets and washrooms
should be clean and well-ventilated. They should be cleaned regularly
as part of a documented cleaning rota and policy. Regular cleaning means
cleaning more than once a day during peak periods of use. See resources
page for toilet inspection checklists,
cleaning guidance for schools and hygiene
and infection controls in schools.
- Toilets should be clean, in good repair and monitored regularly. For example, an audit checklist should be located in the toilets, dated and signed at regular intervals
- All toilet areas should have hand washing facilities including warm and cold running water, soap and towels
- Liquid soap and paper towels are recognized as the most effective hand washing method. Liquid soap, unlike bar soap, is less likely to become contaminated
- Ideally liquid soap should be wall mounted and disposable cartridges are considered to be the ‘gold standard’. Liquid soap that is “topped up” can become contaminated
- Some schools use roller towels or hand dryers. Ideally paper towels should be used. However, if roller towels or hand dryers are provided they should be regularly maintained, changed or cleaned
- Water fountains and other drinking outlets should not be located in the toilets
- General bins (for paper towels etc) in toilets should be foot operated
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When the toilet is flushed with the lid open, droplets can land several feet away from the toilet. These droplets have bacteria in them, which can survive several hours or days and multiply at a fantastic rate. School toilets generally provide the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, being damp and often warm. Bacteria can not only get on the floor, where pupils tread in it, but also on sinks, taps, towels and water fountains. This could then lead to something like a tummy bug affecting a large number of pupils. Drinking water outlets should not be located in toilet areas.
Seeing where the water goes
Here's a simple way of seeing how far those water droplets can travel.
- Put food colouring into the toilet bowl
- Stretch cling film over the top of the bowl
- Flush the toilet. You'll see how the droplets fly up to the underside of the cling film
- Get a magnifying glass and have a good look at the cling film. You'll see a lot more fine droplets than were originally apparent.
Encouraging pupils to shut the lid
Obviously, having a lid is important in the first place. Our page of suggestions for designers and architects mentions this. A toilet which requires the lid to be put down before flushing would be the best kind, provided of course, that pupils flush the toilet.
If the above experiment is done with pupils, this will almost certainly encourage them to flush.
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Encouraging pupils to wash their hands
Handwashing is one of the most important ways of preventing the spread of in fection.
Here are some lesson ideas to encourage pupils to wash their hands. In addition, you could:
- Find images of bacteria to show them
- Find images of threadworms (a parasite which is found in faeces) to show them
- For older pupils, discuss what sort of things might be carried on dirty hands (eg germs causing tummy upsets)
Cooking flour activity
Put some flour on a plate, and invite one pupil to place his or her right hand in it (palm down). Pupils stand in a circle and the first one shakes the hand of the next, who then shakes the hand of the next, and so on. See how far around the circle the flour gets – it might get all the way back to the first pupil! Explain that invisible germs are spread the same way.
Using a UV light
If you have access to an ultra violet light, ask pupils to put their hands under it. It will show up how dirty their hands really are! If practical, pupils can rinse hands lightly, then see how little dirt has come off. Then they can try scrubbing with soap and water.
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