11th February 2011 at 00:00
The problem: How do you know if a pupil is really ill when they say they are, and needs sending to the sick room? I find it hard to tell the difference between someone faking it and them being genuinely unwell

What you said

"I pretty much always send them to the office. If they get sent back then fine, no problem. If they were ill and I didn't send them, then I'm stuffed. When I qualify as a doctor, then I'll be happy to diagnose."


"Depends on the child. Some wouldn't complain if their arm fell off in the middle of a lesson so if they say they feel ill I know they feel ill. There are others who use every excuse under the sun to get out of doing work if they feel like it."


"A member of staff in my department sends another member of the class, chosen by the ill person, to the school nurse with them. He thinks this is a good idea as they can return and inform him of any feedback the medical nurse has given."


The expert view

If a pupil complains of being ill, ask them if they feel they need to go to the medical room. If they say no, then tell them to stay in your lesson and then let you know if they feel worse. If they ask to go to the medical room, let them go with a note from you explaining that you have given permission.

If you are concerned that they will not go there, send another pupil with them. Ask the accompanying pupil to return with the note signed to say the pupil was safely delivered to the medical room.

You should log the time they left the lesson. This will allow you to monitor patterns if they regularly start to ask to leave your lesson through illness. If you feel the pupil is extremely unwell, send a message asking for a first aider to come to your classroom.

If you start to notice that a particular pupil is frequently complaining of being ill, speak to their form tutor or pastoral head. It may be a sign of a wider problem that they may not be aware of. If, on further investigation, it appears that the issue is only occurring in your lessons you will need to try to ascertain why.

Speak to the pupil, perhaps with their form tutor present, and ask if there are any issues in your lessons that need to be addressed. Contact parents before this meeting as they may wish to be involved. You can then work with the pupil and their parents to overcome any problems that they are facing.

Mark Lewis is deputy headteacher at Marshland High School in Norfolk. For more advice, go to



- Play safe and, if in doubt, send a pupil to the sick room.

- Ask another pupil to accompany them and return once the sick pupil has been "delivered".

- Record which pupils leave the lesson through illness so you can identify any patterns.


- Ignore a pupil who says they are ill and asks to go to the medical room.

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