Royal College of Nursing head calls for a nurse in every school to help tackle growing toll of mental health issues among children in wake of pandemic
- Dame Donna Kinnair has said a dedicated nurse could help pupils’ manage their mental health and also tackle health problems like obesity and diabetes
- At present, there is around one nurse for every 10 state schools in England
- Teaching unions have backed the call but say government funding is necessary to make it a reality
The head of the Royal College of Nursing is calling for every school to have its own full-time nurse.
Dame Donna Kinnair said the move would help manage the growing toll of mental illness on children as well as aid schools in supporting pupils’ recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
‘Every school should have a school nurse because they are a vital part of the education of children and young people,’ said Kinnair, who said investing in school nurses can also help to combat health issues such as obesity.
‘With one in six children and young people experiencing mental health issues, the role of the school nurses has never been more important in assisting them.
‘We also know issues such as obesity and diabetes are increasing. Investing in school nurses can go a long way to reducing the impact of these issues, which can have lifelong consequences.’
The head of the Royal College of Nursing is calling for every school to have its own full-time nurse. Dame Donna Kinnair (pictured) said the move would help manage the growing toll of mental illness on children as well as aid schools in supporting pupils’ recovery from the impact of Covid-19 [File photo]
Kinnair’s call comes as part of a manifesto to improve the health of the UK. The document, produced by the College of Medicine, gathered a group of health professionals with the aim of ‘redefining medicine beyond pills and procedures’.
It advocates for using both conventional treatments and non-conventional treatments – for example, prescribing walking or social activities to treat depression.
The group includes Michael Dixon, former chair of the NHS Alliance and health advisor to Prince Charles, and Sir Sam Everington, a highly-respected GP who gained plaudits for improving the health of communities in the East End of London.
Regarding nurses in schools, the group wrote that it ‘believes physical, mental and social health needs to be the focus of all schools.’
‘This can only be done with a full-time nurse in every school and on every governing board,’ it said.
At present, there is around one nurse for every 10 state schools in England, The Guardian reported. NHS figures reported in the paper showed the number of school nurses fell 30 per cent in England from 2,962 in 2009 to 2,060 last year.
Teaching unions have backed the call, with Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders saying it would be ‘a step change in how we support children’s health.’
‘Currently school nurses generally look after several schools, conducting visits and drop-in sessions. It would be fantastic if every school had its own nurse because it would mean that each school was able to always draw on the expertise of a trained health professional,’ The Guardian quoted Barton as saying.
At present, there is around one nurse for every 10 state schools in England, The Guardian reported. NHS figures reported in the paper showed the number of school nurses fell 30 per cent in England from 2,962 in 2009 to 2,060 last year [Stock image]
Barton acknowledged that while the pandemic had highlighted the need for dedicated school nurses, government funding and recruitment remained hurdles to carrying out the move.
‘NAHT research has shown that 84% of school leaders agreed that schools should have a single member of staff with relevant knowledge and expertise to act as the school lead for mental health.
‘We urgently need the government to provide vital additional resources to make this possible in all schools,’ Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said in The Guardian.