Respect your cleaners

12th of March 2013
Respect your cleaners

Reporting from Scandinavia, our correspondent Petra Sjouwerman, takes a closer look at a Danish project on cleaning in schools. A guide has been published to highlight its importance, she explains.

“It may sound trite, but boys are more likely to hit the toilet bowl if they can aim at something. Therefore, it may be a good idea to paint some flies in the toilet bowl or a shooting target. Similarly, a basketball net over the rubbish bins can encourage students to hit them,” writes the Danish mini-guide Keep the School Clean!

This mini-guide was released in February by two Danish cleaners’ unions and Local Government Denmark (LGDK), the interest group and member authority of Danish municipalities. In Denmark it is the municipality that has responsibilty for schools. The goal of the mini-guide is a better understanding of the importance of cleaners in schools.

”When the school is clean, the indoor climate is better, satisfaction increases and ultimately, it means that students have better learning conditions,” says Nina Vedel Møller, consultant at 3F, the largest Danish cleaners’ trades union.

Shared responsibility

The project started in 2010, called ‘Clean Day – Good Day’, with which cleaners’ unions and the LGDK wanted to underline that a clean school is a shared responsibility. The school management, teachers, cleaning staff, students and parents all play an important role.

“We have gathered all the best experiences from this project we conducted in six municipalities to make this mini-guide,” explains Jan Struwe Poulsen, consultant for LGDK.

Besides the tip about the shooting target in the toilet bowl, there are many others interesting initiatives, started by cleaners, students or others. What about the idea to play a certain song at the end of the school day, so that everybody is aware that the cleaners start their work? Or that teachers can bring cleaning into their teachings. “How does dirt and dust affect the body? What are cleaning products made of?”

In the Danish school system students from six to 16 years old frequent the same school, although often in different wings of the building. To motivate older students to sweep the floor in their classroom, put the chairs on the tables and waste in the bin -  not beside it. The mini-guide also proposes a competition between classes, with a chance to win tickets to the cinema. The youngest students could compete for the ‘golden dustpan’. Another idea is to leave shoes at the door and use slippers all day, in fact already a widespread tradition in many Scandinavian daycare centres.

The mini-guide underlines how important it is that students meet the cleaning staff and know their names. The schools that participated in the project invited their cleaners into the classrooms to tell them about themselves and their jobs.

“Cleaners are often invisible, the work gets done without students, teachers and parents realising why it is so important. We hope of course that cleaners will get more respect and in the end a better remuneration. Cleaning is important for working processes everywhere. Also in schools,” concludes Nina Vedel Møller.


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