National flu survey offers schools real-life science opportunity


Schools are being asked to join a nationwide project to help monitor flu outbreaks among their students this winter.

It is hoped the initiative will provide “critical insight” into the spread of flu in schools, including factors affecting the transmission of the virus, while also helping to increase students’ engagement in science education.

The project is being run by the British Science Association and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which already runs an annual flu survey among the general population.

Its main survey findings from 2012/13 revealed that the under-18 age group had the highest rates of flu and on average took three days off school to recover.

It is hoped that by getting involved in the school flu survey, schools across the country can help to provide more detailed information about the spread of flu among this age group.

The project then aims to bring some of this “real scientific data” into classrooms during National Science and Engineering Week in March 2014.

Students who have taken part in the survey will be able to analyse anonymised data showing the volume of flu cases and factors affecting flu transmission. Where sufficient responses are available, schools will be able to access and analyse data relating to their local area or even their own school.

Science departments will be supported with classroom materials including a lesson plan, activity ideas and student hand-outs.

Imran Khan, CEO of the British Science Association, said: “UK school children will be at the forefront of science helping researchers understand more about flu in a landmark year for study of the virus. As well as being an important part of collating the data, they will also have the chance to examine the latest findings and trends, which may even relate to their local school or area.”

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