To nurture the skills of resilience is key to providing young people with the ability to cope with stress, adversity, failure and challenges. Resilience is evident when young people have a greater ability to ‘bounce back’ when faced with difficulties and achieve positive outcomes.

Resilience empowers the individual to recognise issues caused by poor personal hygiene and take personal responsibility to ensure good hygiene routines are followed and adhered to.

Learning about personal hygiene is included in the newly statutory area of Health Education (insert link Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk). Children and young people should learn about this at both primary and secondary levels. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, children and adults in schools have a heightened awareness of personal issues and this might provide a positive springboard for improved understanding of and approaches to building long lasting, preventative behaviours relating to personal hygiene.

Antimicrobial resistance is a problem that is happening now and will get worse without action at all levels so we must all play our part. There are already common infections that are resistant to antimicrobials. Without sustained changes to the way we manage infections and protect these medicines, some routine medical procedures will become fatal. Global estimates suggest that more than 700,000 people die every year from drug-resistant strains of common bacterial infections, HIV, TB and malaria. If antimicrobial resistance continues to increase, this number could rise to 10 million a year by 2050, with people dying from ordinary infections, or from routine operations due to the risk of infection.

Education is key to this issue, and that’s why Public Health England has made recommendations for a whole range of ages; from preschool settings to residential and day care settings for older people. They have a dedicated e-bug team providing learning resources so that children learn about germs, how they spread and why hygiene is important. They also discuss drug resistance, explaining how reducing the spread of infections will mean we do not need to take as many antibiotics, which will help to protect these medicines.

A hygienic lifestyle encompasses both physical and emotional health. For children, good health and hygiene practices go hand-in-hand with effective learning. Equally, learning about having a healthy and hygienic lifestyle helps give children the independence and confidence to make well-informed decisions about their health, which have life-long implications.

A child with poor personal hygiene may feel ostracised from school by the reactions of their peers, and often teaching staff are unsure of how to address the issue. For this child, the school environment can quickly become a very negative place, with their learning experiences becoming tainted by their social interactions.

They can become withdrawn and lose a great deal of confidence. This then affects their motivation and stimulation to learn.

Lack of proper hygiene in children can also make them more susceptible to contracting illnesses such as stomach bugs, causing absences from school.





Lessons about personal hygiene should form part of a broad and balanced spiral PSHE curriculum, delivered in age-appropriate segments. Many skills relating to the understanding and uptake of hygienic practices are explored in other area of PSHE, such as work on healthy lifestyles, self-awareness and emotional and mental health. Personal hygiene lessons must be exemplified through whole school approaches which involve all members of staff, in order to make a connection between lesson and ‘real life’. At Primary schools, staff should model good hygiene practices and remind children to follow them during the school day. Secondary schools may promote hygienic practices in different ways e.g. through informative posters or exploration of social norms. Schools should regularly review their provision of hygiene facilities and check in with children and young people, using pupil voice approaches, about their use and any barriers or possible improvements.

Schools may also consider the following areas of work:

  • Parental guidance from an early age.
  • Parental co-operation with schools in regard to their child’s personal hygiene.Family worker intervention as a first step and if available.
  • Family worker intervention as a first step and if available.


  • Ensure opportunities are found in the curriculum to teach the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene and highlighting how it links with appearance and self-esteem. This should use age appropriate materials, adapted to meet local needs.
  • Be aware of and advise parents/carers of local community networks offering information, advice and support about general health and development, and how to access these services.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to talk with parents/carers about, and involve them in, improving their personal hygiene.
  • Display notices in the toilets reminding children and young people to wash their hands after they have used the facilities.
  • Have supplies available in school to assist children/young people with their personal hygiene and arrange for these to be available in a discreet manner (e.g. sanitary wear, soap, toothbrush and tooth paste, spare uniform).
  • Identify and link with local relevant partners to promote good personal hygiene.
  • Supervise young children to ensure they wash their hands for 20 seconds more often than usual with soap and water or hand sanitiser and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues.
  • In secondary school good personal hygiene could be linked to Puberty lessons.


There are no specific guidelines in regard to dealing with poor personal hygiene and addressing this type of issue may cause embarrassment for both teachers and students/parents/carers.

Dependent on the age of the child in question and the severity of the issue, will depend on your actions, but if there are indications of persistent neglect then teachers should report the matter to the safeguarding lead within school.

In Primary School any regular personal hygiene concerns should involve discussions with the parents/carers as they have the responsibility for ensuring their child is kept clean and presentable. They may be able to provide you with background information that you would not necessarily be aware of (unable to purchase washing powder as benefits have stopped for example). Parents may be unaware of the problems linked to poor hygiene is having on their child.

At a certain age (dependent on learning needs), students would be expected to take personal responsibility for their hygiene regime. As part of puberty education and Science lessons, students will be aware of personal hygiene, changes to their bodies and microbes and so this could be a good point at which to start.



  • about personal hygiene and germs including bacteria, viruses, how they are spread and treated, and the importance of handwashing.

Source: Relationships Education RSE and Health Education (DfE)  Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)

  • about personal hygiene, germs including bacteria, viruses, how they are spread, treatment and prevention of infection, and about antibiotics.

Source: Relationships Education RSE and Health Education (DfE)  Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)