Scheme helps keep children in school

Customer, and now patient Yvonne Evans (47) with William Evans (7), and Horatio Evans (5) have their details taken by (right) Rowlands Pharmacy assistant  'Bex' Wilton '' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (123842-9324)
Customer, and now patient Yvonne Evans (47) with William Evans (7), and Horatio Evans (5) have their details taken by (right) Rowlands Pharmacy assistant 'Bex' Wilton '' ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (123842-9324)
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ILLNESS among children can be a real headache for parents.

Getting a doctor’s appointment can prove extremely difficult plus there’s the cost of taking time off work.

But a group of schools in the north of Portsmouth have joined up with a local pharmacy as part of a scheme to provide children with medication for minor illnesses in the hope it will get the back to class quicker.

The minor ailments scheme was originally set up in 2004.

But many parents are not aware that it exists. So the scheme is formally being rolled out across six cluster schools.

It includes Paulsgrove Primary, Portsdown Primary, Medina Primary, St Paul’s Primary, Victory Primary and Highbury Primary.

The scheme could then be rolled out across the rest of the city too.

It gives parents the opportunity to go into the Rowlands Pharmacy in Allaway Avenue, Paulsgrove, and get advice and treatment instead of waiting for an appointment at the doctors and missing out on school.

Bex Wilton, medical counter assistant at Rowlands Pharmacy, says: ‘We do a minor ailments scheme where parents can come in and get treatments for things like coughs, colds and headaches.

‘We give them the treatment so they can go home and treat themselves so they can go back to school. Then it doesn’t disrupt their learning.

‘We provide all these treatments in our pharmacy for free for anybody who is eligible for free prescriptions.

‘This frees up the doctors’ time.

‘We want to help people who are new to the area and have never used it or heard of it before.’

Sue Carpenter, attendance and inclusion officer for the Paulsgrove, Wymering and Cosham cluster of schools, adds: ‘The reason children have time off school is because of illness which is usually authorised by schools.

‘Schools have been asked to challenge parents but it’s very difficult because it’s difficult to get in to see a doctor.

‘With Rowlands pharmacy parents can go there any time of the day.

‘They can then get medical advice and we can authorise or unauthorise the absence.

‘This is the first time the parents have had a choice.

‘They go to the doctors if they think they need to.’

Sue says the scheme has made a big difference.

‘It’s supporting the parents and it’s supporting the schools,’ she says.

‘If a child is a persistent absentee and their absence is less then 85 per cent we will challenge a parent as to the reasons for their absence.

‘They will be asked to provide evidence of their child being unwell.

‘For me, it’s fantastic. This has been a struggle for years and years.

‘A lot of our families can’t get in to see a GP. They might be concerned about a child being unwell.

‘So this is support for them and their child too. It’s just such a valuable service for our community.

‘It’s about schools and parents working together and that’s what we are doing to support these children.’

Headteachers have backed the scheme.

Howard Payne, head of Medina Primary School, says: ‘The scheme already existed. As parents came into the stream in Reception year they have heard about this. But a new parent has so much to think about when a child comes into school.

‘The health issue might not be the most important thing.

‘So this needs a big relaunch. It needs to be a partnership between all those involved.

‘If the children aren’t in, they aren’t learning. It’s a safeguarding issue as well as a learning issue. It’s about getting into habits. We might feel a bit rough one day but we still go in. It’s the same with the staff.

‘It’s making the parents think twice about it. They will question their child and go from there.’

Irene Baldry, head of Portsdown Primary School, adds: ‘A whole day out is a whole day that they might never catch up on. Some of the reasons that we used to get were because a child had a minor cough or a sniffle.

‘I am really positive about the whole scheme.

‘It’s just parents’ lack of understanding. They need to know that if they come into school they can be supported and cared for.’