We must make the most of our skilled school nurses


With many children in your classes likely to have wide-ranging needs – from SEN to mental health – Caroline Voogd explains just how our skilled school nurses can support you to help your students achieve their potential.

You are likely to work with children who have a wide range of needs, from SEN to complex health needs, from mental health and wellbeing problems to behavioural or child protection issues.

Addressing the individual needs of all students in your classroom takes a lot of time, dedication and skill. However, this variety of needs can further compound teachers’ already heavy workloads, particularly where there is a lack of training and support.

But you don’t have to face these issues alone. School nurses can provide you with training on a range of issues, including complex health needs and long-term conditions, and issues such as self-harm and eating disorders.

Aside from the more widely known public health programmes, such as the national child measurement programme and immunisation, school nurses also have an important role to play in a range of areas, such as:

  • Assessing the needs of children and young people.

  • Liaison between schools and other agencies.

  • Treatment for less severe mental health conditions and assessment for referrals to specialist services.

  • Support with the development of care plans for children with complex and/or chronic health needs.

  • Assisting schools with their PSHE programme.

  • Identifying and providing advice on safeguarding and child protection issues.

  • Addressing behavioural issues and reducing absence.

  • Promoting healthy lifestyles.

Since April 2013, the commissioning of school nursing services in England has become the responsibility of local authorities, under the hopefully watchful eye of Public Health England. Although this has meant some changes to services it could become an advantage for schools.

Viv Bennett, director of nursing for public health at the Department of Health (DH), said: “The new commissioning arrangements encourage school nurses to work much more closely with local authorities and schools in designing local services.”

I have come across many teachers who were unaware that their school had a named school nurse, let alone knew how to contact the local school health service. In some rare cases, there may not be a school nursing team, but if this is the case in your area, push your local authority – ask why this is and ask how these vital services are being delivered.

Despite the recent reforms to school nursing and the DH’s new vision for the profession, the school nursing workforce remains small. However, a demand from schools and students for these services can help to ensure they survive and, I hope, grow. It is important that teachers, headteachers and pastoral staff interact with their school nursing team. Ideally, new members of staff should be made aware of the available school health services and be given contact details for the named school nurse. Schools could also invite school nurses to do an annual presentation to staff or students.

I believe that the teaching and the school nursing professions have much in common. Both are callings and both professions have the wellbeing of children and young people at their heart. We can also support each other. School nurses can provide training and support to teachers and teachers can help to advertise school nursing services.

Get in touch with your local school health team and find out what they can do for you and how you can help support them. Co-operation between educationalists and health professionals needs to be extended for the benefit of both professions, but most importantly, for the benefit of the children, young people and their families.

Further information
  • The DH’s school nursing factsheet for headteachers and governors can be found at http://bit.ly/1aH99AE
  • The BJSN campaign More School Nurses for Better Child Health wants to see an increased number of qualified school nurses working in UK schools. Visit: http://moreschoolnurses.co.uk/


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