THOUSANDS of primary school pupils across the city took part in a Guinness World Record attempt aimed at promoting the importance of good hand hygiene.

Around 5,400 pupils from 62 schools across Glasgow took part in a simultaneous hand hygiene lesson in a bid to smash the current record held by the Health Protection Agency in England, which featured 2147 pupils from 21 schools across the UK.

Interest in the event – a partnership between Glasgow City of Science, Glasgow Caledonian University, NHS Scotland, Health Protection Scotland and Glasgow Science Centre – gained momentum following the launch of an appeal to knitting and crochet enthusiasts asking them to create special wooly bugs to be used during the record attempt.

Some 980 wooly bugs were needed and people from all walks of life across both the UK and America broke out their knitting needles to ensure organisers had more than they needed ahead of the lesson.

The larger-than-life bugs – representing tuberculosis, swine flu, the common cold, penicillium, salmonella and cholera – were used to demonstrate to the pupils in a fun and creative way how certain germs and illness can easily spread.

Pupils from all primary school years, learning together in groups of up to 10, were also introduced to sneeze runways, where they used spray guns of coloured water to demonstrate and measure how far a sneeze can travel.

They were also taught that by using simple steps such as regular, thorough hand washing and covering their mouths with a tissue when sneezing can limit the spread of harmful germs.

The project, arranged to co-ordinate with National Science and Engineering Week, took place simultaneously across the city at 1.30pm and was led by 180 student nurses from Glasgow Caledonian University, who volunteered to work with teachers from each of the participating schools to deliver the 40-minute lesson.

The hand hygiene project, which also received funding from the Scottish Government, took weeks to plan and was arranged by Professor Tracey Howe, Deputy Chairman of partnership organisation Glasgow City of Science.

Professor Howe, who is based at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “I am absolutely thrilled with the response to our world record attempt; however, the most gratifying aspect is that so many children across the city now have a better understanding of the importance of good hand hygiene.

“The synchronised session not only ensured more than 5,400 Glasgow primary pupils recognise the science behind proper hand hygiene and its significance in reducing the risk of infections; it helped them do so while having fun and interacting with their school friends. Each of them can also say they played their part in potentially setting a world record here today.

“The response to this project from our many partners including Glasgow Science Centre and Glasgow Caledonian University – not to mention the hundreds of people who helped knit our wooly bugs and the teachers and student nurses who bought into the concept of the mass lesson – has been both humbling and inspiring.”

More than 150 pupils from selected schools were invited to take part in the lesson at Glasgow Science Centre, which acted as a base for the record attempt. Earlier in the day volunteers took park in a flash mob-style dance to highlight the six steps of hand washing and to promote the simultaneous lesson.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-being, Alex Neil, MSP, visited Glasgow Science Centre ahead of the world record attempt and was joined by Chief Midwifery Advisor & Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Ann Holmes, Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, Chairman of Glasgow City of Science, Glasgow City Council’s Bailie Liz Cameron and Professor Jacqui Reilly, lead consultant at Health Protection Scotland.

Professor Reilly, who leads a team of researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University working on healthcare associated infection (HAI), said: “Hand hygiene is the best way to avoid colds, flu and other viruses and is the first line of defence against the spread of many infections, which can disrupt school attendance and working days lost at schools.

“This lesson is a fun and memorable way to teach an approach which will stay with children as they grow up. Scientific evidence shows that implementing hygiene measures such as these reduces risk of illness and can protect health for life.”

In order for the world record hand hygiene lesson attempt to succeed, organisers had to provide two independent witnesses at each participating school, two time keepers and one steward per 50 participants.

Pupils were also tasked with filming the lesson from start to finish at each school in order to verify the attempt. The results of the world record attempt will take six weeks to confirm.

Participating schools were each given legacy kits ahead of the attempt, which included a set of the knitted microbes, a lesson plan and relevant literature, a light box and UV gel to be used by the pupils to test hand hygiene.

Links to coverage:

The Scotsman 

Evening Times