Leaflet in Wales Says Sick Kids Should Still Attend School

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Parents in Wales have been told that children who are suffering from tonsillitis or glandular fever are still expected to attend school.

A new health guide subtitled Miss School, Miss Out, recommends that students suffering from a variety of illnesses, including headlice, conjunctivitis, threadworm and hand, foot and mouth disease should not miss any school time due to the illnesses.  The booklet suggests that children suffering from the slapped cheek virus also attend school, but “keep away from vulnerable children and pregnant females”.

For those children who have whooping cough, chicken pox, or the mumps, five days off are recommended, and four days off for the measles.

Prior to making any decisions concerning missing school, the booklet urges parents to discuss the situation with their GP or to seek advice from NHS Direct.

The booklet, produced by a partnership of five local authorities known as the Central South Consortium, was issued under pressure from Estyn, the Welsh school inspectorate, to increase student attendance.  It views absenteeism as a rising concern in Welsh secondary schools.  About 3/5ths of all absences in 2012-13 were related to illnesses.

The move angered parents, who believe they should be the ones to choose whether or not to keep their children home.

Gareth Whittle, a father of two from Cardiff, told Wales Online: “I thought it was a joke. I think as parents we are responsible enough to know when and for how long we should keep our children away from school.”

Pauline Jarman, who is a governor at both Caegarw Primary and Mountain Ash Comprehensive School in Rhondda Cynon Taff, has had several calls from parents, complaining about the issue.  She said that, instead of saying no time off was necessary, the leaflet should have said “play it by ear,” as not every child reacts in the same way to every illness.

“I am inclined to trust the judgement of the parent or guardian. If they think the child’s illness is severe enough to keep them home – or are eager to avoid spreading the illness to other children – they will seek the appropriate advice from their GP.  When I had glandular fever I was too run down to function.”

A spokesman stated that the medical advice printed in the booklets had come directly from the Health Protection Agency in England.  The recommendations concerning medical time off were approved by Public Health Wales as well as three university health boards.

Currently, parents must inform schools of a child’s absence by 9:30am.  Only the head teacher can approve an absence.