The study, which was conducted by Cogent Research and involved 300 interviews with senior school and nursery staff, highlighted that the issues preventing effective hygiene were lack of time, cost, poor facilities and lack of staff to supervise.
Currently there are no specific regulations covering washrooms or hand-related hygiene in nurseries, pre-schools and primary schools in England.
Kimberly-Clark has been campaigning for better hand hygiene practices through its Healthy Schools initiative launched in 2012. It points to the problems of pupil and staff absenteeism due to the spread of minor infectious illnesses caused by poor hygiene practices. According to research by the DfE, a total 6m pupil days were lost to illness in state primary schools alone this autumn term.
Teaching children about hand washing and preventing the spread of germs is also a priority in the light of ongoing fears about antibiotic resistance and the possibility of flu pandemics.
Hands are the ‘transmission superhighways’ of germs according to hygiene and infectious diseases expert Dr Sally Bloomfield, who participated in a roundtable event of education professionals organised by Kimberly-Clark, to raise awareness about the issue.
She said, ‘A robust approach to hand hygiene is the single most effective way of managing transmission of avoidable illness. It is also a way of tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance. We have to find ways to reduce the amount of antibiotics we use and we can do this by reducing the need for antibiotic prescribing through good health practices.’
Kimberly-Clark Professional’s education manager, Dr Louise Vickerman, added, ‘Good hygiene practices, such as hand washing with soap and warm water, is proven to greatly reduce the spread of common illnesses such as coughs and stomach bugs in education environments.’
The roundtable event included Maureen Crandles, director of the Melville Street Nursery in Edinburgh, Fen Bagias of ERIC, Pete Mountstephen, of the National Primary Heads and Nursery World’s Karen Faux.