London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Report of the County Medical Officer—Education. 179
The procedure of this scheme, which is applied in certain schools in which the conditions necessitate
stringent action, and in which the more complete scheme, to be later described, is not in operation,
is as follows:—
The school nurse examines all the children at the school and notes the condition of their
heads, Using strict precautions against contagion. The head teacher is then supplied with a
white card for each child whose head requires cleansing. The card, which draws attention to
the condition and contains directions for cleansing, is enclosed in a sealed envelope and taken
home by the child. At the end of the first week all cases not treated are separated from the
other children and a red card with full details is filled Up by the nurse for each child still Unclean.
This is forwarded to the divisional superintendent, who has the card delivered at the home by the
attendance officer. At the end of the second Week, the assistant superintendent of school
nurses visits the school and examines the children proposed for exclusion. After exclusion the
the divisional superintendent takes out a summons ; but any child properly cleansed before the
hearing of the case, is re-admitted to school, examined by the nurse and the summons is not pressed,
the circumstances being explained to the magistrate.

The following table shows the results of examinations in those schools where the cleansing scheme as applied to heads has been put into operation during the year:—

Department (1)Number Examined (2)Number Clean (3)Number slightly dirty heads (4)Number verminous (5)Number Yellow Cards served (6)Number White Cards served (7)Number Bed Cards served (8)Number Proposed for Exclusion (9)Number Excluded for Prosecution (10)

The parents of 133 children were prosecuted, and fines varying from 2s. 6d. to 10s. imposed.
The percentages in the specially selected schools in which this scheme has been applied, of children
verminous amongst children examined was 15 8 in 1912, as compared with 142 in 1911. The head
cleansing scheme still gives very good results in districts where the cleansing stations have not been
established, and the standard of cleanliness in the schools has been progressively raised both in poorer
schools and those attended by better class children. The standard set in the case of scholarship candidates
in respect of cleanliness of the head has had an educative effect on the elementary and secondary
schools. Only a very small proportion of scholarship children are now rejected on this account.
Although it was held by the King's Bench Division of the High Courts of Justice "that sending a
child to school in a verminous condition which, if a parent took a proper course, could be remedied,
was not causing a child to attend school within the meaning of the by-laws, and also that there was
no obligation on a teacher to admit a verminous child,"some of the magistrates are reluctant to convict,
and in order to meet their wishes it has been decided that obstinate cases which do not improve under
the scheme for dealing with verminous heads, should be dealt with under the powers conferred upon
the Council under section 122 of the Children Act. In the districts, therefore, in which the schools
are within a mile radius of a cleansing station, and where magistrates decline to convict, the procedure
of the above scheme is followed up to the point of exclusion, but if is found that the condition is not
improved the child concerned is re-admitted to the school and the procedure of the persons and
clothing scheme is applied (see below).
The scheme originally adopted in order to give effect to the provisions of section 122 of the
Children Act, 1908, provided that attention should be drawn to the condition by a card issued by tha
school nurse in respect of each child found in a foul or filthy condition, and that this card, placed in a
sealed envelope, should be taken home by the child. Simultaneously the name of the child was forwarded
to the nurse in charge of the cleansing station to which the school contributed, and after the
lapse of 48 hours the latter nurse re-examined the child. If the unsatisfactory condition persisted the
divisional superintendent was requested to serve the statutory notice necessary under the Act, and an
opportunity was offered to the parents to send the child voluntarily to the cleansing station. In the
event of the parents neglecting to take action, the child was conveyed from the school to the cleansing
station by the nurse. In these cases if the offence were repeated a second statutory notice was served
and police court proceedings were instituted. In the case of children who were cleansed voluntarily
after the first statutory notice, but who at a subsequent date relapsed it was necessary once more to
commence, ab initio, by the service of a first statutory notice.
It was soon found that a large number of parents took advantage of the facilities for voluntary
baths and then allowed the unsatisfactory conditions to recur, and it became necessary repeatedly to
18320 z 2
and clothing.