The last couple of weeks has been a time when we have had an unusually high number of children away from school due to being ill. Of these quite a number have had gastroenteritis, but not all. We have also had a large number of children kept home rather than sending them to school. Within the school itself, a number of classrooms have had very few or even no cases of gastro recorded.
Our average absence rate is around 30 students daily, even when there are no specific reasons for illness.
This week our total daily absence rate looked like;
Monday 35 students (5%)
Tuesday 19 students (3%)
Wednesday 32 students (5%)
Thursday 139 students (22%)
Friday 203 students (32%)
Of this we have only sent home about 65 students with illness caused by Viral Gastroenteritis (for the entire week) or about 13 students each day. The first day that this took hold was Monday of this week, which interestingly had a fairly normal absence rate. On Wednesday we alerted families to an unusual increase in Viral Gastroenteritis.
On Thursday and Friday, a large number of absences were students who were not ill but had been taken out of school either as a precaution or for an extended holiday.
So, why is this important?
Students have to be at school in order to learn. We talk about being Powerful Learners, but to be one, children have to attend school. Powerful Learners have the curiosity, creativity and confidence to participate actively in their learning. In order to build this capacity, children need to be at school.
The reality is that Viral Gastroenteritis can be caught from anywhere, not just passed on at school. SAHealth were contacted and they considered that we were doing all that was sensibly required, with some additional preventative measures put in place as well. Soap was readily available, toilets were cleaned thoroughly each night after school using the required disinfectants, teachers spoke repeatedly with students about the importance of good hygiene, soft furnishings were not shared in classes that were effected and parents were asked to keep their ill child at home until 24 hours after all symptoms had ceased to show.
Whether it be shopping centres, public transport, sports stadiums or schools, transition of viruses is a daily occurrence. We cannot avoid them altogether. I would encourage parents to continue to send children to school, rather than avoiding school in case they contract an illness.
We are about to have four days where children are not at school. Hopefully this will allow families to get through to the end of any current illnesses and be able to return children to school next week.
Thankyou to everyone for your patience during this time. I understand that it is not great having children home when they are ill. Having four children myself, I have experienced this scenario many times, but I know that it also has the benefit of increasing resistance to other infections that may occur.
Enjoy your weekend and we hope that things settle down next week.