The Health of our Children

A recent change in nursing colleagues at Bolton has provoked useful thinking on what the purpose of a school nursing service is and how, like so many things, in essence it is a connection between home and school for the good of the pupil. Above all though is the clear sense that what the nursing must be is proactive, not reactive, if the pupils are to have the very best start in life.

It would be easy to recall perhaps our own school days and think of the essential role of the nurse as being to administer cream on cuts, apply one of those Elastoplast’s that hurt more when they came off than the cut they were there to make better and to be on hand with the sick bowl until parents came along to take us home. All of this, of course, must be done and it is the firefighting aspect to the role. However, there is an equally, and arguably, more important proactive role.

This is when the sight and hearing tests, regular administered pick up the need for some help before they lead to getting behind with school work. It is when the height and weight measures pick up the need to be careful with diet and approach to health. The school nurse needs to be closely linked with sport and exercise in school and to convey those messages about healthy lifestyle and exercise to home. For older pupils there is proactive work to be done on healthy approaches to alcohol and relationships. In recent years we have employed a physio for sports fixtures, again working on being well rather than reacting to the problem of being ill.

And these are all physical issues. The proactive health agenda is so much more important for mental health. Finally, in recent years, this has become much more focused in the public mind. Mental Health first aid course help both adults and young people gain the basic skills to help. The whole ethos of a school, setting things in context, keeping everything in perspective also plays its part.

Young people can be guided at school to have a healthy mind in a healthy body. This is the aim of modern school nursing. It was also exactly what the Roman poet Juvenal wrote Mens sana in corpore sano some 1800 years ago.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton