Rentrée 2018: Health checks and educational changes

Today’s Rentrée - back to school in France - is a good opportunity to check your child’s health, and ensure you are aware of the educational changes set to take place this year, parents are reminded.

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At this time of year in France, most children are invited to sign up for extracurricular activities, especially sports.

As most such activities will require proof of a recent medical certificate from your doctor or paediatrician, this is often a good time for a complete health check.

Dr Jean Lalau-Kéraly suggested that such a check-up is a good idea at least once a year, to keep tabs on your child’s weight, height, vaccinations and other markers of health.

Speaking to news source 20 Minutes, he said: “This [medical] consultation is also a preventative measure, and a good time for your doctor to check everything is going well.

"Children should have a good balance between sleep, school work, relaxation and extracurricular activities.”

Children may also benefit from a sight test now, as it has been found that non-diagnosis of sight problems can cause pupils to fall behind at school, and may lead to fatigue and headaches.

Sometimes, children may receive a sight test at school between ages five and six, but if they do not, or you suspect problems at a later stage, it is advisable to book in with an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Dr Jean-François Korobelnik, ophthalmologist at the CHU de Bordeaux and former president of the Société Française d’Ophtalmologie, said: “A child with sight problems may not necessarily know how to say it; they will simply realise that they have problems with reading, or seeing the classroom board, without knowing how to explain it.”

Similarly, a dentist check up is advised at this time of year, as children’s diets may begin to settle into more of a routine after the summer holiday months.

For younger children, dentists may check that their teeth are healthy and being brushed correctly; for older children, the dentist may check alignment and see if any orthodontic treatment is needed.

Dr Lalau-Kéraly added: “Children should learn to brush their teeth carefully from the earliest age possible, and do so twice a day after meals.”

Good quality sleep is also important after the summer holidays, the experts explained.

It is advised to limit children’s screen time in the hours before bed - including televisions, computers, phones and video games - as the blue light emitted can stop the sleep hormone, melatonin, from being produced properly.

Children are advised to get into as regular a sleep routine as possible, to ensure they get enough rest.

Dr Lalau-Kéraly said: “Lack of sleep has a negative impact on children’s attention spans and their intellectual performance.”

A good breakfast before school should also be prioritised, the paediatrician said, as children are especially vulnerable to hypoglycemia or dehydration after the “fast” of the night time.

A balanced breakfast may also help children concentrate better, and make them less likely to reach for a chocolate bar or similar at break time.

Dr Lalau-Kéraly advised that a good breakfast would include a whole fat dairy product, a small amount of fruit juice, and some slow-releasing carbohydrates, such as toasts with jam, or bread and cheese.

The new school year is also a good time to make sure your child is aware of good hygiene practices, such as hand washing with soap after using the toilet and always before meals.

“Dirty hands can be a vector for many illnesses and parasites,” explained Dr Lalau-Kéraly.

The doctor also reminded parents to be alert to hair nits and lice, which can appear suddenly and spread from child to child very easily at school.

Parents should check their child’s hairline and behind their ears, as children’s fine hair is more susceptible to catching lice - and remind their children to try and avoid sharing helmets or hats with classmates.

If lice are found, a special shampoo should be used to kill the insects, followed by combing with a special lice comb - usually sold with the shampoo. All clothes and bed linen should also be washed.

Last but not least, it is advisable to check that your child’s rucksack is not too heavy, to avoid back or neck injury.

Children can avoid this by emptying their bag of everything they do not need that day, and wearing their rucksacks evenly on both shoulders.

As well as welcoming a new year of children back to class, the Rentrée 2018 also has a number of educational changes in store.

New measures include a ban on mobile phones and devices in school, as well as the creation of more CP and CE1 classes, to reduce pupil numbers per class.

Many schools will continue to operate on four-day weeks this year, rather than the usual four-and-a-half days. According to the minister for education’s figures, 85% of pupils are now on four-day weeks, which are intended to allow pupils to take part in educational or sport activities at least one day a week.

New measures announced by education minister Jean-Paul Blanquer also include new standards for basic language and mathematical skills by the end of CP; and new personalised tests on critical skills from primary school right up to lycée (high school).

Lastly, older pupils in Seconde (the penultimate school year) will also receive up to 54 hours of teaching in further education, and possible future professions, in a bid to further personalise their studying in their final years of school.

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