“Parents should decide” if sick Bridlington kids go to school

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Frustrated parents have spoken out after being issued with guidelines telling them they must send children to school with a host of infectious diseases.

Mums and dads across Bridlington have been receiving leaflets home from school, provided by East Riding Council, telling them that “there is no reason” why a child needs to be absent if they’re suffering from highly contagious diseases such as conjunctivitis and tonsillitis.

But the council say that they are simply using NHS advice to try and encourage high attendances at school.

The list of 12 diseases range from minor ailments such as cold sores, warts and verruccas, to contagious conditions such as hand, foot and mouth, slapped cheek and head lice.

Parents say that they should decide when their kids are too ill to go to school - and are worried about them picking up unnecessary diseases if other infectious children are sent in.

Dave Asquith, who has a five-year-old daughter at Martongate School, said: “I think a lot of parents will be angry about this.

“It is up to a parent to decide whether their child is well enough to go to school or not. They know them best and if a child is ill, all they want to do is lie down and sleep.

“How is a teacher who has 25 other children to look after supposed to deal with a child who is ill?

“Diseases will spread. If one child in the class has something like tonsillitis, it seems ridiculous that you would run the risk of them all getting it. That would surely only make attendance worse in the long term.”

A flood of comments on social networking site Facebook - including some from teachers - have also disagreed with the advice.

Guy Hornby, who has a six-year-old son at Bempton School, said: “Half of these diseases are highly contagious. When you look on the NHS website at advice about them, the one on Hand, Foot and Mouth says that children should not go to school.

“I would not send my child to school if they had at least half of the diseases on the list.

“This is all about Ofsted and the council being afraid of having poor attendance figures - not about the children. There is a really small NHS logo on the front page of the leaflet, but the advice on the NHS website goes against what the leaflet says.

“People are not upset with the teachers or the schools, it is not their fault. But you wouldn’t get teachers going in to work if they had some of these illnesses.”

The leaflet says that there should be “no reason” for youngsters to be absent with athlete’s foot; cold sores, conjunctivitis, hand, foot and mouth; head lice; period pains; ringworm; slapped cheek; sore throat; threadworms; tonsillitis; warts and verrucae.

It also says that children with toothache should be in school until a dentist appointment has been booked.

A spokeswoman for East Riding Council said: “The Council’s education welfare service is working with schools, parents and health professionals to improve pupils’ attendance by developing draft guidance and county-wide strategies to ensure there are consistent procedures throughout all local schools.

“An information leaflet on illness absence and medical appointments has been made available to all East Riding schools to advise parents on the correct action to take when their child is ill.

“The leaflet gives Health Protection Agency advice on specific ailments, and this guidance has been used by schools since it was issued in April 2010.

“This guidance recommends that there is no need to keep a child away from schools for specific, listed infections.

“Of course, there will be occasions when a child is poorly and understandably parents may then decide to keep their child away from school.”

The spokeswomen said that parents are being asked to ensure their child’s attendance is as high as possible, to allow them to achieve their full potential at school.

“Although a 90 per cent attendance appears high, this actually means that a child is missing the equivalent of half a day a week, or four weeks in a school year, or a whole year over the child’s school life,” she continued.

“Research by the Department for Education suggests that this could equal a whole GCSE grade drop in the pupil’s achievement.

“Parents are also being asked wherever possible to arrange for routine appointments for the dentist, doctor or optician to be arranged for outside school hours.”

If children are absent from school for more than three days, they may be asked to show a medical note as proof. For longer absences, parents can be summoned to meetings with teachers at the school.

l What do YOU think? Do parents know best, or is a high attendance rate the most important thing?

Let us know by writing to Times House, Mill Street, Driffield, YO25 6TN, emailing letters@bridlingtonfreepress.co.uk or leaving a comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages.