Nits, unwashed hands, the smell of urine... In any staffroom, and certainly in primary schools, pupil hygiene - or the lack of it - can give rise to some lively discussion. Certainly, all schools develop good personal health and hygiene among pupils through their PSHE curriculum.
Enlist the help of specialists
It is always a delicate matter if a teacher is confronted with a smelly or nit-ridden child, but this is not a problem that can be sidestepped. If a child in your class smells, you need to seek routine opportunities to highlight the importance of cleanliness, and do all you can to enlist the help of specialists - most obviously the school nurse - to talk to the class about hygiene. If you can find a willing beautician or dental nurse, these would be valuable visitors.
If a child presents a particular problem - for instance, the persistent smell of urine or bad breath - try to find out more about the pupil and the possible underlying problems. Talk to the child and, if appropriate, approach the parents.
Build up trust by establishing good relationships with pupils and parents. Sensitive handling of this situation is important and you should protect privacy as much as possible, but do not promise confidentiality as there may be child protection issues. If you do not feel confident about dealing with the problem, ask a senior colleague for guidance. Another member of staff may know the family well, or might have useful background knowledge.
Consider the child in question
You could also approach the school nurse or child welfare officer for advice, especially if there's a potential medical or emotional problem. They can then request more specialised intervention if necessary. If the problemis ongoing, you might decide to explain the situation to the whole class. But consider the involvement of the child in question. It could be better to send the child on an errand and speak to the rest of the class. Make it clear to everyone that teasing will not be tolerated.
If you have concerns that a pupil might be suffering from abuse or neglect, you should inform your child protection officer. Keep a record of your observations and ensure these are professional, and never judgmental. Scruffy pupils are not necessarily unloved.
Resources to help teach about hygiene
You can download these resources for free by registering and logging into our sister site TES Resources
Sweaty Facts PowerPoint designed for PSHE
Personal hygiene lesson plan for KS3 PSHE
A selection of resources on good hygiene for KS1
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