Playgroup owner reassures parents after national contamination survey

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The owner of a Staffordshire playgroup has explained the routine of ensuring health and safety standards are met at a setting.

It follows testing undertaken at an unnamed primary school in England by pest control experts Rentokil, where the contamination levels on a toy dinosaur were found to be 41 times higher than a toilet seat.

There were more bugs on the toys played with by children than on door handles, chairs or radiators, which were all in the same room.

Helena Thomas, the owner and manager of Bright Beginnings Private Day Nursery, stressed how far her and her staff go to ensure an excellent standard of health and hygiene.

She said: “It’s all about health and hygiene at the end of the day. Just general things like making sure the children wash their hands and blow their noses properly.

“It’s about good quality care. Just general everyday things like making sure the children wash their hands properly and getting children into good hygiene routines.

“And it’s not just about helping the children, with their hygiene but providing our staff with alcohol gel and correct cleaning products, it’s just so important.”

Helena explained the procedures and policies they have to make sure all equipment and toys that are used by children are germ-free.

She said: “We have a robust system in place, we use Milton disinfecting liquid to sterilize toys overnight and antibacterial spray for larger equipment.

“We have a cleaner who comes in and cleans the whole premises, we rotate the toys for the children so we can clean the others, we have a chart which we check off as we clean to ensure we maintain a high standard of hygiene and that everything is cleaned thoroughly.

“We have a strict sickness policy in line with the Public Health England Guidance on Infection control in schools and other Childcare settings. When children return to us after being poorly, they can’t return for 48 hours after suffering from sickness and diarrhoea to stop any chance or risk of anything spreading.

“As a Nursery we feel we do everything we can to ensure good hygiene standards are maintained and we work hard to keep everyone at Bright Beginnings happy and healthy.”

The pest controllers took 130 swabs from one primary school in the south of England, which were then tested using a high-tech detector.

“Heat maps” were taken from the results, which showed the dirtiest areas and where a likely outbreak would occur.

Luke Rutterford, the technical manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene, explained that the areas they found that had a higher chance of an outbreak were quite surprising.

He said: “These findings may surprise many, as it is not necessarily the objects and areas they would associate with being unhygienic such as toilets, but instead items that are shared and used by multiple children which appear to be harbouring the most germs.

“Play equipment and shared items such as pens and pencils, are used regularly throughout the day but rarely cleaned, providing lots of opportunity for cross contamination.”

The schools that co-operated with the tests chose to remain anonymous. Some of the hotspots that were found and that were considered “high” were sinks, door handles and toys, such as a dinosaur and the class mascot teddy bear.

Mr Rutterford added: “Accurately heat mapping a school’s microbiological landscape enables informed decisions to be made on where and how to clean.

“In turn, this could ensure that any outbreaks of highly contagious illnesses such as norovirus are contained sooner and significantly reduce the levels of pupil and teacher sickness.”

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