The Children’s Global Hygiene Foundation has released a petition to establish a standard within the Australian school system for children’s access to soap. The petition currently has the support of the Victorian and South Australian Nurses Federation, the president of the Secondary Schools Principals Association and the WA Teachers Union.
It is currently under consideration by all the other state and territory nurse and teachers unions, Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA), Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO) at both national and state levels. Numerous other organisations with a vested interest in child health are also considering support along with BUPA and all other major health insurance companies.
“This has always been a guarded topic amongst many school principals,” said Keith Gregory, founder of the Children’s Global Hygiene Foundation. “They are reluctant to go into the public arena and voice that they cannot maintain soap in schools due to vandalism and kids just mucking up. They would rather say that they manage it and undertake practices such as relying on gels in classrooms which only puts our children at greater risk because not washing your hands in the toilets just brings infection back to the classroom.”
Gregory believes it is the government’s responsibility to show duty of care for the health and safety of children at school and cannot abdicate its responsibility by laying it on the shoulders of the school principal. “There is no legislation requiring schools to maintain soap in the toilets. There is however legislation requiring soap in day care centres, pubs, clubs, restaurants, places of work, etc… but not in our schools,” he stated.
“In order for the Health Departments to successfully manage community health then they need to be able to ensure that soap is available and the appropriate monitoring and reporting systems are in place within our schools. I once described schools as a community distribution centre for any communicable disease going around.”
Over the next two months the foundation hopes to collect in excess of 100,000 signatures, “We need to be proactive and do all we can to protect and guide the community in whatever hygiene defence mechanisms we can put in place,” shared Gregory.
“In 2013 a virus that has just infected over 1.2 million people in England will return to Australia. The virus known as the Sydney 2012 is envisaged to infect some 500,000 people here in Australia when it returns this winter. Many of these will be children in schools.”
“The only form of defense against this and many other viruses is hand washing with soap and water. We know through many studies that children washing their hands four times a day at critical moments will reduce gastroenteritis by 50 percent and influenza by 24 percent within the school setting,” Gregory revealed.
Gregory believes a large number of schools will be unprepared for this Gastro virus with many at present relying on waterless gels in classrooms as a means of providing hand hygiene rather than soap in the toilets. “This does not stop the spread of gastro in the school setting in fact it only increases it as the child returns from the toilet spreading the virus to the classroom,” he said.
“Soap in schools should be the government’s responsibility and not that of the principal,” stated Gregory. “Our children should be afforded at the minimum the same level of protection that is afforded to the rest of the public. That is to have regular toilet inspections by a qualified environmental health and safety officer to ensure that standards are being maintained.”
Click the link below to sign the petition: