Nurses and other health professionals should advise families that pupils should not stay off school with upper respiratory tract infection symptoms or anxiety, according to both the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the chief medical officer (CMO).
Earlier this week, the RCN co-signed a letter to healthcare professionals along with CMO Professor Chris Whitty and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), as well as other royal colleges.
It said health professionals need to work alongside colleagues in education to ‘address health-related barriers to school attendance and maximise the short and longer-term benefits of being in school’.
Last month, the RCGP approved ‘five principles to promote school attendance’ which sought to raise awareness among GPs ‘about their vital role in promoting school attendance’.
It comes amid concerns over a rise in school absences, with a large proportion due to illness, following the Covid pandemic.
The Department for Education asked royal colleges to give parents and carers a clinical perspective on mild illness and attendance as pupils return to school this week.
The letter said that ‘in most cases’ health professionals should reassure families that children with upper respiratory infection symptoms can go to school if they do not have a temperature.
It also highlighted that while mild or moderate anxiety can sometimes be ‘difficult’, it can also be ‘a normal part of growing up’.
The letter said: ‘Being in school can often help alleviate the underlying issues. A prolonged period of absence is likely to heighten their children’s anxiety about attending in the future, rather than reduce it.
‘We ask you to continue supporting families to build up children’s confidence to attend school regularly and to encourage those who are experiencing persistent symptoms to access additional support.’
Health professionals were also encouraged to share with patients the NHS guidance on deciding whether a child attends school, especially since the pandemic may have ‘caused some parents to feel less confident’ with this.
After it emerged last week that unsafe concrete had forced the full or partial closure of more than 100 schools in England, NHSE said it is now seeking assurance over the state of the primary care estate.
A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication Pulse