Influenza or “flu” is caused by the influenza virus, and infection with this virus can sometimes be fatal. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from seasonal flu. A flu pandemic occurs when a new type of influenza virus is introduced to humans from animals and eventually spreads globally.

This question is based on an article in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  The article is called " Modelling the impact of local reactive school closures on critical care provision during an influenza pandemic" by T. House et al published in February 2011.

This activity can take 10 minutes or could be extended depending on how much time you have. Students could interview their parents/carers to find out more about the impact school closures would have on them.

Students could come up with criteria individually or in small groups and then decide as a class on the overall criteria. This gives them an idea on how decision-making at higher levels will work, as it is unlikely that everyone will agree on all points, so several compromises will be reached. Students could present their findings in different ways, such as a verbal presentation, or you could hold a debate if there are a range of different opinions in the class.

For a plenary session, the head teacher (or other member of staff) should feed back to the students about their recommendations and what the implications might be.

Further information


Curriculum links

Applications and implications of science 4b. to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions
Organisms and health 5e human health is affected by a range of environmental and inherited factors, by the use and misuse of drugs and by medical treatments.
Advocacy and representation 2.2a evaluate critically different ideas and viewpoints including those with which they do not necessarily agree
2.2b explain their viewpoint, drawing conclusions from what they have learnt through research, discussion and actions, including formal debates and votes
2.2c present a convincing argument that takes account of, and represents, different viewpoints, to try to persuade others to think again, change or support them.
Taking informed and responsible action 2.3a explore creative approaches to taking action on problems and issues to achieve intended purposes

2.3b research, initiate and plan action to address citizenship issues, working individually and with others
2.3c negotiate, decide on and take action to try to influence others, bring about change or resist unwanted change, managing time and resources appropriately
2.3d assess critically the impact of their actions on communities and the wider world, now and in the future, and make recommendations to others for further action
2.3e reflect on the progress they have made, evaluating what they have learnt from the intended and unintended consequences of action, and the contributions of others as well as themselves.

Scottish Curriculum

Science - Curriculum for Excellence level 4 SCN 4-20b Topical Science: Having selected scientific themes of topical interest, I can critically analyse the issues, and use relevant information to develop an informed argument.
Social Studies - Curriculum for Excellence level 4 SOC 4-16a People in society: economy and business: I can contribute to a discussion on the extent to which people's needs should be met by the state or the individual
SOC 4-16b Through discussion, I have identified aspects of a social issue to investigate and by gathering information I can assess its impact and the attitudes of the people affected
SOC 4-18a I can evaluate the impact which decision making bodies have on the lives of people in Scotland or elsewhere


Should your school be closed?

school_300During flu epidemics, there are fewer people in intensive care units in hospitals during the school holidays than during term time. This suggests that schools are a place where infection spreads quickly, causing more people to be seriously ill. During a pandemic, one idea would be to temporarily close schools during flu outbreaks to try and reduce the number of people who catch flu and become ill.


Activity: What would happen if your school closed during a flu pandemic?

Do you think it would be a good idea?

Come up with a list of recommendations for the head teacher to help them decide under what circumstances they should close the school.

Think about the following implications:

  • If the virus infects 50% of the population (as the 1918 virus did) how would this impact on your school in terms of both students and staff? How would classes carry on?
  • Who would look after you if you were sick or if the school closed? How would this impact on their income and other commitments?
  • Would it be likely to affect your education or the education of others in the school? What could be done to help those just about to take exams or complete coursework?
  • How could the teachers catch up on work missed whilst the school was closed?
  • How do pupils in your school travel to school and what effects might this have?
  • What measures could be put in place in the school to try and prevent the spread of infection in the school?