A new curriculum-based website to promote awareness of meningitis is outlined by Caroline Hill.

Meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia (blood poisoning) can affect anyone at any time and can kill within hours. Survivors can be left with severe, disabling after-effects, including brain damage, deafness and, where septicaemia has occurred, loss of limbs. Young adults between 14-19 years of age are the group second most at risk from meningococcal disease and every year there are at least 1,500 reported cases among the under 16s, although experts estimate that there are actually twice as many cases in UK.

As the UK’s leading meningitis charity, the Meningitis Trust is working towards a world that is free from meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia and where those affected receive quality care and support for life. The charity aims to raise awareness through an education and training programme that offers life-long practical support to people coping with the devastating after-effects of these diseases.

New resource

The Meningitis Trust is launching a new website funded by organisations including The James Tudor Foundation and the Barbara Ward Children’s Foundation. The aim of the website is not only to raise awareness of meningitis amongst teaching professionals and students, but also to increase parents’ understanding of the disease. Research has shown that parents fear meningitis more than any other disease.

The Meningitis Trust’s new learning resource at www.meningitis-learning.org is mapped against the National Curriculum and designed specifically to help support citizenship and PSHE lesson planning and delivery. The website features downloadable lesson plans and worksheets. It can also be used as an interactive tool during lessons.

Website sections

The website is divided into three main sections.

  • Students can visit the Learning Pod, where they can find out about meningitis, what it is like to live with it and read case studies of young people who have had the disease.
  • The teachers’ and parents’ sections provide a guide to the Learning Pod and give further information on meningitis including how to involve schools in fundraising. The parents’ section offers information on vaccinations in addition to advice on helping children deal with grief.
  • Monty and Friends is the primary school section of the site. Although designed for children aged 7-11, this section contains simple explanations and quizzes which may be suitable for older students with special educational needs. It also contains an animated demonstration of how meningococcal bacteria invade the body.

Teachers can download a number of role-play scenarios set in a community where an outbreak of meningitis has recently taken place. Activity sheets are provided, which students can use to identify options and discuss actions with each other. These can be used by students to examine their own role and responsibilities when dealing with life-threatening issues such as meningitis. Each role play covers the following:

  • knowledge and understanding of becoming informed citizens
  • developing skills of enquiry and communication
  • developing skills of participation and responsible action.

The PSHE section is designed to support discussion and debate about individual roles during a case or an outbreak of meningitis. It also looks at how TV soap operas – Hollyoaks in particular – handle such themes. The following curriculum objectives are covered by the activities:

  • developing a healthy, safer lifestyle
  • developing good relationships and respecting differences between people.

To help teachers and students understand more about what happens to people when they get meningitis, video clips are available. They show three case studies of young people of secondary school and university ages who have had meningitis – including a boy who died aged 14. This section also contains information from a counsellor about the impact of bereavement.

Students can learn about the role of a public health doctor and read a diary of someone in this position. A chain of events will help students understand what happens if there is a case of meningitis at school. A glossary is also available for students to look up words used in the website that they may not understand.

The Meningitis Trust welcomes feedback from users of the website. There is a section on the site providing teachers with the opportunity to give their opinion on the appearance of the website and ease of navigation. Teachers are asked to rate the technical content in terms of its appropriateness for given age groups.

Further information

Health Protection Agency

Health Protection Teams

The Meningitis Trust

  • Information on meningitis for secondary schools and colleges is available from leaflets and symptoms cards such as What is Meningitis?
  • Leaflets can be downloaded directly at www.meningitis-trust.org/disease_info/information_materials.php or an order form can be used.
  • Awareness talks in schools and colleges are provided on request.

If you would like further disease literature or to know more about meningitis or the Meningitis Trust visit www.meningitis-trust.org

Caroline Hill is communications officer for the Meningitis Trust.

First published in Learning for Life, October 2006