EVERY secondary school in Oxfordshire will have its own full-time nurse as part of a £1.55m deal announced today.
Previously some schools in the county only had school nurses for half a day a week and others only an hour.
But under the new contract signed between the county council and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, there will be 35 school health nurses, 34 of whom will be assigned to an individual school. And one nurse will cover Heyford Free School and the Pupil Referral Unit.
County councillor Hilary Hibbert-Biles, cabinet member for public health, admitted when she first spoke to headteachers about the plan, many asked “what’s the catch?”.
She said: “In my view, healthy children and young people will become healthy adults. This will help them have a better lifestyle and therefore have less impact on the NHS later in life.
“I think schools have lots of pressure, children these days face a lot of mental health issues and it would be a great help to those children.”
The contract, which comes into force in September and replaces the previous one by the now-defunct NHS Primary Care Trust, also covers the provision of nurses who will work in primary schools across Oxfordshire – covering clusters of up to 12 schools.
Mrs Hibbert-Biles added: “Eventually I would like to do more within primary schools. I just felt the pressures of secondary school pupils were far greater at the moment than the primary schools.
“The school nurses will do an analysis of the school needs with the headteacher and work with them and teachers within that school.
“There will be a public health agenda on smoking cessation, sexual health, healthy eating and the immunisations programme.
“For example, it is rare people start smoking as an adult, and if schools decided there was a particular cohort with smoking concerns, then the school could look at how to address that.”
Headteacher at Oxford Spires Academy, Sue Croft, welcomed the move.
Currently the Glanville Road school has a nurse on-site for just one day a week.
She said: “Now she will be able to do a lot more pro-active work and put in better preventative education, whether it is to do with obesity, sexual health or physical health. We have always wanted someone in full-time but I just couldn’t afford it, so it is great to have this given to us.”
Pauline Scully, interim director of the children and families division at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our school nurses are highly skilled and occupy a unique position in their ability to ensure children and young people’s health needs are met.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity of working closely with schools, pupils and their families to make sure that the children of Oxfordshire are healthy and able to reach their full potential.”
Working with the headteacher, the nurse will put together an individual programme for the school.
This will include issues such as mental health, sexual health and smoking prevention.
Dr Rebecca Cooper, public health consultant at the county council, said: “With pressure to do well increasing all the time, I believe school health nurses offer students the necessary support network they need to stay happy and healthy as they progress through their secondary education.”
Niall McWilliams, head of Oxford Academy, where there has been a full-time school nurse, said: “It has had an enormous impact on the quality of life for our students, in both their physical and emotional wellbeing.
“This is someone who is not a teacher and someone they can trust.”
County council spokeswoman Rachel McQuilliam said it was not possible to make comparisons with the previous spend on school health nurses, but she said the council was confident the contract represented an increase in spending.
WHAT NURSES CAN DO
- Offer a child health and development reviews in reception year, Year 6 and between the ages of 14 and 17
- Offer access to sessions or one-to-one appointments to address various health issues
- Running health promotion campaigns e.g. Change4Life
- Signpost pupils to either GP or other specialist service if it is required