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PoliticsApril 18, 2024

How to tell if your child is well enough to go to school or is in fact sick

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David Seymour announced new guidelines this week for sending your kids to school with symptoms. Emily Writes sums them up.

Parents knee deep in snotty tissues and buckets of vomit were granted a much-welcome reprieve by associate education minister David Seymour on Wednesday with the announcement that he will advise them on when to send their child to school.

Seymour announced new guidelines that will help parents decide whether a child is too sick to attend or not. 

You might think that creating your child, birthing them or being at their birth, loving them, feeding them, comforting them, bathing them, cleaning them, clothing them, knowing the difference between a cry that means “I’m wet” and a cry that means “I’m hurt”, helping them walk, talk, grow and thrive over a minimum of five years means you’re pretty well-placed to determine whether or not your child should leave the house – but you’d be wrong.

According to Seymour, an increase in justified absences from school due to sickness is simply due to an imbalance between health decisions and education decisions. And after four years of New Zealanders finally taking their health symptoms seriously, it’s time to get back into the classroom, cough be damned.

“An education crisis today will turn into a crime crisis, a vulnerable children crisis, an economic crisis and an inequality crisis tomorrow. We’re addressing this by creating a culture where children know if they want to get anywhere in life, they need to get to school first,” said Seymour. So how can parents finally stop creating these crises?

A quick guide (full guidelines here)

If your child has a headache, then you need to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten. One = “As a parent with no sick leave, I love having to take an unpaid day off work.” 10 = “My boss rang me and said, I know your child isn’t sick but take a day off anyway! Why not?” If the headache is so bad your child looks like a ghost, you can keep them home. If your child is sobbing but can’t prove they have a severe headache? Throw them out of the house, they’ve got things to learn.

If your child has constipation, they should go to school, according to the new guidelines. But if they have diarrhoea, you must take a photo of it with your phone and send it to the associate minister. Diarrhoea is when more than three loose, watery stools pass within one day, you must count them. 

If your child has a fever, remember the rhyme: If it be hay, then nay they must be at school, if it be meningococcal, that’s not cool (so stay home I guess).

Act’s David Seymour (Image: Getty Images, additional design Tina Tiller)

If your child just has a cough, send them to school. Unless it’s a cough from a virus, or a flu, or it’s whooping, or a nasty cold. If your child is Māori or Pasifika and has a sore throat, actually that’s concerning because Māori and Pasifika are at far greater risk of developing serious complications from strep throat, you should see a doctor. Don’t know a foolproof method of distinguishing between “just a cough” and “strep throat that could be serious”? Don’t ask us, we don’t support nanny state overreach.

If your child has a festering rash, even if it only covers less than 9% of your child’s body, you should still keep them home. It’s surprising just how much damage 9% can cause.

Correction: If your child has eczema and it’s a rash or they have an itchy face, send them to school. If it could be measles or another infectious rash, keep them at home. If you can’t tell the difference, that’s on you. Don’t ask us, ask a doctor, but not during school time.

Breaking news: If your child is vomiting uncontrollably, keep them at home. If you’ve ever sent your kid to school even though they were vomiting because you care that much about education, send an email to Seymour’s office – surely he’ll give you a medal or something.

If your child has a chronic illness, then their number of attendance days is likely low, which means sadly, you are the parent of a ram-raiding criminal who will never be educated and is simply creating a future of crises. Sorry to break it to you, but now you know.

If your child has a disability, run. Who knows what minister for disability issues Penny Simmonds will do next.

If your child has a snotty nose, Seymour would like you to share it with your child’s underpaid and overworked teachers. Because if everyone has a snotty nose, then that’s basically the same as no one having a snotty nose. If any teachers cannot work because they have pneumonia combined with the runs, they can be replaced by the hundreds of public servants who will soon be unemployed.

If you are one of the 300,000 New Zealand families living in unacceptable housing conditions in Aotearoa, and are suffering from congestion or fluid or scarring on your lungs from black mould – too bad. Send your kids to school. Your landlord having any reason to evict you should help with any ongoing issues your child is having with their health.

If your child has the flu, congratulations. Pharmac recently announced it will no longer be free for children under 12 and Māori and Pacific people aged between 55 and 64 to receive the flu vaccine. Children are a major pathway for the spread of influenza so chances are you’ll soon be sick too and then that will mean you have to take a sick day off from work, but not too many because that’s expensive for businesses. Stay tuned for the upcoming guidelines on knowing if you’re well enough to go to work (spoiler: just don’t get sick). 

Keep going!