Education Quandary

My nine-year-old comes home from school with headaches. There is nothing obviously wrong. What could it be?
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You say your daughter's eyes have been tested, and she does not seem stressed. But headaches can spring from a huge variety of causes.

Top suggested candidate is dehydration, especially as younger children don't always feel thirsty, even when they need a drink. Do pupils in her school have water freely available to them, and are they encouraged to drink it? In a similar vein, she could have low blood sugar at the end of the day, and need to eat as soon as she gets in.

Another possible culprit could be a classroom whiteboard. There is anecdotal evidence that these new gadgets are giving both teachers and pupils headaches, particularly if health and safety guidelines aren't observed and people find themselves staring straight into the projector beam. Check that this is not happening.

And what does she carry to school? Is she is lugging a great big bag back and forth, and carrying it on one shoulder? If so, this could be setting up tension headaches.

Then there is the general environment, both inside and out. Stuffy rooms cause headaches, while unofficial surveys have shown that more children in schools near mobile phone masts report headaches than in other schools.

Even if your daughter is happy at school, there may be some small worry causing her low-level anxiety. Monitor her headaches to see if there is a pattern. If they are always on certain days, there may be something to investigate further.

Readers' advice

My daughter had a spell where she came home with a violent headache on the same day each week. We discovered that these days coincided with biology lessons and that geraniums in the biology lab were to blame. It might be worth checking what's in the classroom.
EM Rotheram, Doncaster

I recognised myself in the little girl who is suffering from headaches. I had no problems in infant school but the headaches became more frequent in junior schooI. I suggest that you might look at her diet. As an adult I discovered I am allergic to chocolate, cheese and, worst of all, eggs. All of these were components in my diet as a child and all trigger severe headaches if I eat them.
Michelle Haynes, London NW7

You say you have had your daughter's eyes tested, a good first step. However, the standard eye test will not show up a condition called Scotopic.

Sensitivity Syndrome is also known as Irlen Syndrome. A person with this condition will have mild to severe problems with print distortion/sensitivity and even distortion of elements of their everyday environment. Find more details on the Irlen website -
Jenni McDonough, West Yorks

Next week's quandary

Everyone says China is the up-and-coming economic power of the future, and I am interested in my children learning Chinese. I feel it will give them a head start in the world . But is this a good idea? And where could they get lessons? They are eight and 10.

Send your letters to Hilary Wilce, to reach her by next Monday, at The Independent, Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or send e-mails to Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.