Should sick kids still go to school?

The summer holidays are but a distant memory and the weeks punctuated by seemingly endless Jewish festivals are finally behind us.

Time to knuckle down and tackle both work and school life without any interruption.

Except when your little one develops the inevitable winter cold or bug. So, do you keep them off school, tucked up with a hot water bottle and a hot drink?

Or do you dose them with Calpol and send them in whilst you guiltily hotfoot it to work, praying that you don't get an accusatory phone call informing you that your little one has vomited in assembly?

Hot on the heels of weeks of disrupted work patterns, the dilemma for working Jewish parents is surely even more pronounced than our non-Jewish counterparts, 63 per cent of whom recently admitted in a survey that they would send their sick child to school — even when they are contagious.

And, according to the private GP Push Doctor group, 60 per cent of parents feel forced to send their sick kids in due to work pressures.

It’s all a bit puzzling really. Are we doing our poorly kids a disservice by sending them in sick — or are we making them resilient, countering the ‘snowflake phenomenon that seems to see Millennials felled by the slightest sniffle or cough?

Are we teaching our kids a good work ethic by force-feeding them paracetamol in order to get them through their school day — or causing the poor mites undue distress?

Of course, it depends on how ill they are. Few parents would send their kids to school with chicken-pox or crying in pain, but if symptoms can be ‘masked’ with a few docile drugs, allowing Mum (and Dad) to earn the crust to keep the family afloat, is there really any harm?

Certainly the government and schools seem to be sending out the message that kids should go to school when ill — and in fact, many schools punish sick kids who lose out on attendance rewards.

The Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School this year made headlines by insisting that sick children should be sent to school “if they can get out of bed”, whilst in 2016 the headmaster of Sylvan Infant School in Poole praised parents who medicated their sick kids to get them into the classroom.

Both schools were concerned about attendance levels in their recent Ofsted reports.

The NHS website insists that coughs, sore throats and colds should not keep kids away from school but that a fever should (but they don’t comment on whether a child drugged to bring the fever down should attend or not).

One guide called Miss School Miss Out, published in Wales in 2014, insisted that not even conjunctivitis, glandular fever or tonsillitis are reasons for missing school.

Diarrhoea however does warrant not only a day off school — but two days after the symptoms clear up (how many frazzled working parents cheat on that one?).

The whole sick-day phenomenon is a very Marmite issue even for adults.

We all know people who take a sickie at the slightest sniffle but equally we all know the tough, macho SAS type who proudly ploughs through colds, flu and probably winter vomiting virus whilst barely breaking into a sweat.

I am not sure who to admire the most but I know for sure that I would prefer to spend time with the wilting sniffler — at least I am not in danger of catching much from them.

The brave warrior battling swine flu, however, might be able to boast of his or her resilience, but they have probably left a selfish wake of destruction in their path.

But should we expect our tender princes and princesses to be taking on nasty viruses whilst learning phonics and fractions?

Are we teaching them resilience or a lesson on how to be selfish, blithely ignoring the fact that they are spreading disease around the classroom?

For most working parents, the issues are far more prosaic — they can’t afford to take yet another day off work, especially after so many fractured weeks over the past couple of months.

I still cringe when I recall my son at the age of about eight being laid low by some bug or other.

Unable to ‘mask’ his symptoms with Mother’s little helper (Calpol), I was forced to drag him to work with me where I laid him out across a few chairs to doze peacefully whilst I delivered my planned lecture to 200 university students.

Wicked mother? I certainly felt like it, though it doesn't seem to have done him (or the students) any harm.

Clearly there are some winners when it comes to sending poorly kids to school — Oftsed, schools worrying about attendance, and employers — but there are surely losers too, including all the other children and their families (and the teachers) who are at risk of catching the bug.

But let’s not forget the unhappy little person who probably just wants to burrow into their duvet with their favourite teddy but is instead forced to don a tie and blazer and play rounders in a draughty school hall.

It’s a conundrum enough to give anyone the chills.


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