North-East schools are piloting a scheme which could improve the treatment of infectious illnesses such as chicken pox and mumps.

Hundreds of children across Stockton have joined forces with health experts in a project which is launched this week.

As part of the scheme, schools will collect information about the number of children off school with illnesses such as diarrhoea, chest infection, influenza, worms and head lice.

The information will be passed on to Health Protection Agency nurse for analysis.

It should give health officials a better idea of which diseases are more common.

Armed with that information, nurses will be able to advise schools about the best way to stop the illnesses spreading.

The information will be provided weekly by the schools on an anonymous basis.

As part of the pilot, a handbook has been produced for teachers, school nurses and parents.

Written by a team of local doctors, nurses, teachers and environmental experts, it explains how to get advice about a particular illness, which illnesses need reporting and how to prevent them spreading.

The pilot will run for one term and if it's successful it will be extended to other schools in the area.

Dr Ian Holtby, a consultant in communicable disease control with the Health Protection Agency North East, said:

"Infectious diseases spread easily in institutions like schools where people spend long periods of time in close proximity to one another. Information about infectious diseases in schools is very useful to health professionals because it often reflects what is going on in the wider community.

The more we know about these illnesses the greater our chances of stopping them spreading.