|Announcement 19 March 2009|
Report published on E.Coli Outbreak in Wales
|An enquiry into the 2005 Welsh E.coli 0157 outbreak which affected 44 schools, hospitalised 28 children and left 5 year old Mason Jones dead, concluded that the recommendations made several years previously by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales had not been followed. Professor Hugh Pennington, who wrote the official report published today 19 March, echoed the Commissioner’s recommendation that every local authority should have a programme of audits to ensure that all schools have adequate toilet and hand washing facilities.|
Professor Pennington’s report stressed that the provision of adequate toilet and hand washing facilities is a basic requirement in all schools and one that takes on a particular importance in preventing the spread of infection. The report goes on to say that, “Good personal hygiene and hand washing is vital to preventing the person-to-person spread of, among other things, E.coli O157.”
The E.coli outbreak was the largest of its kind in Wales, the second biggest in the UK and the sixth largest worldwide.
The enquiry found that the cause of the infection had been school food supplied by a local butcher. Following complaints to the E.coli Helpline about the lack of hand washing facilities in schools, the report wrote to schools but did not find demonstrative evidence of a link between school washrooms and the spread of infection in this case. The report considers that this may be due to the prompt action to close and deep clean the most affected schools. The report does, however, detail some of the deficiencies found in two of the four areas affected by the E.coli outbreak. These areas carried out inspections and audits carried following the E.coli. outbreak:
Rhondda Cynon Taf (extract from report)
(i) A significant number of schools did not have hot water.
(ii) There was a widespread need to improve and provide the basic requirements such as soap, paper towels, hot water, adequate numbers of toilets, basic refurbishment. There were examples of no soap, no toilet roll holders, no toilet paper, no locks on cubicles, broken taps, no paper towels, missing toilet seats, toilet pans, broken cisterns, no paper bins, lack of ventilation, poor decoration, vandalism.
(iii) There was a worrying picture forming in the secondary school sector. Some toilets were locked during the day. Pupils had to ask the School Secretary for the key and for toilet paper. Some toilet areas had been converted into teaching areas without permission of the Authority.
(iv) Inspections of toilets of secondary schools that did not contract with the authority-appointed contractor revealed “extremely poor practices that needed to be challenged”. For example, there was no colour coding of buckets, cloths and cleaning equipment to differentiate uses such as toilets, sinks, floors.
Caerphilly (extract from report)
A series of problems were identified, mainly concerning heating and plumbing at 51 schools. The investigation highlighted that measures taken by some schools to conserve water, on the advice of the Authority, namely the installation of push-taps had resulted in young children being unable to wash their hands. Some schools had not been spending their delegated funds allocated for maintenance on maintenance. In addition, it was discovered that 103 caretakers within Caerphilly were not adequately trained.
Comment from the Bog Standard campaign
These findings are no surprise to the Bog Standard campaign which has been campaigning for over five years to raise awareness of the problems caused by substandard school toilets for pupils. Run by the children’s national charity ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) the campaign has been working to raise standards in the provision of, and access to, school toilets for pupils.
Working with one of our major sponsors Albany Washroom Services, we are helping to develop a set of national standards designed to help schools ensure that toilets are cleaned appropriately. Managing Director Mike Burton said, “The guidance sets out acceptable standards of cleaning, the frequency of cleaning and a detailed description of how toilet facilities should be cleaned in schools.” These standards will go further than our already popular, general guidance on cleaning of school toilets which can be downloaded from the Bog Standard site - and which have been extensively used by local authorities and schools in Wales following the E.coli outbreak.
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