Soap stars wash away the bugs and sniffles

THE answer to cutting illness and absenteeism could lie in teachers' and pupils' own hands - literally.

Failure to wash properly has been identified as a major culprit in transmitting germs and spreading illness. Edinburgh's environmental health and consumer department warns: "Infections which can be passed on range from the common cold to potentially fatal infections such as E.Coli 157."

The department cites a study in the American Journal of Infection Control which reported that regularly washing hands in class with a sanitising hand gel that does not require towels for drying cut absenteeism by nearly 20 per cent among elementary pupils and 10 per cent among their teachers.

The city's "soap stars" campaign will be funded by Lothian Health and led by school nurses. Schools will be given baseball caps, posters and leaflets and "glo germ boxes" of material which shows up dirt on hands and helps illustrate the need for thorough washing between fingers and on the backs of hands.

The campaign is to be backed by new standards for toilets and hand basins. Recent inspections found variable standards. One Edinburgh supply teacher said: "They would hardly encourage anyone to stand for several minutes at a sink thoroughly washing their hands."

CCTV surveillance is one method of improving the way pupils treat toilets, according to Colin Mackay, secretary of Edinburgh local association of the Educational Institute of Scotland. Mr Mackay pointed to Craigmount High, where the exercise of "pupil power" through the school council had resulted in "facilities being made more civilised".

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