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One in four students say their school does not always have enough soap or sanitiser

New research by Initial Washroom Hygiene shows a dramatic increase in the public’s understanding of the importance of good hand hygiene, but also highlights the challenges schools face in trying to prevent the spread of Coronavirus amongst students.

The survey of 1,000 school students, and 1,000 parents with children aged between 8 and 18[1], shows strong awareness of the importance of hand hygiene. Ninety-four per cent of parents believe their children understand that washing hands helps to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, and 91 per cent claim to actively encourage their children to wash their hands for 20 seconds or longer.

But when it comes to washing hands at school, there is still room for improvement. On average students spend 18 seconds each time they wash their hands at school, which is less than the recommended time of 20 – 30 seconds to effectively remove bacteria and microbes.

On average, students said that they wash their hands six times each day at school. According to government guidance, schools must ensure that pupils clean their hands regularly, including when they arrive at school, when they return from breaks, when they change rooms and before and after eating.

Encouragingly, 94 per cent of students surveyed said they wash their hands after using the washroom – but rates decline at other key periods. Eighty-eight per cent said they wash their hands before eating, 79 per cent said they wash their hands after each playtime or break, and 62 per cent wash their hands between lessons or classes.

Of the students surveyed 46 per cent said they worry about going to school in case they catch or spread Coronavirus, and one in four (24 per cent) students said their school does not always have enough soap or sanitiser. But to offset this, almost three quarters (73 per cent) of parents surveyed provide their children with hand sanitiser to take to school.

Jamie Woodhall UK Technical & Innovation Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene commented: “With recent research showing that Coronavirus can survive on human skin for up to nine hours if left undisturbed[2], education about good hand hygiene is vital to help prevent the spread of the virus and other illnesses.

“Schools play a crucial role in breaking the ‘chain of infection’, and it centres on encouraging frequent handwashing and undertaking regular disinfection of key shared touchpoints. To do this, we recommend formalising handwashing within the school timetable, in a similar way that class changes, and lunch breaks are written into the daily schedule. Ensuring the provision of handwashing facilities, including soap, warm running water, sanitiser and drying facilities is vital.

“Acknowledging the challenges that schools face, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of parents are confident that their children’s schools are doing what they can to keep children safe and prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Eighty-five per cent have received communication from schools outlining how they are complying with government guidance and 68 per cent say they believe schools are doing a good job in preventing the spread of Coronavirus.”


[1] Research conducted by Censuswide between 5 October and 8 October 2020. Total sample 2,020: 1,010 students aged 8-18 and 1,010 parents with children aged 8-18.

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