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On 5 November 2009 the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, confirmed that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education will become a statutory part of the National Curriculum from 2011 (1). The new arrangements, based on a report by the distinguished head teacher Sir Alasdair Macdonald (2), have been broadly welcomed and have several positive aspects for school nurses.

School nurses are already heavily involved in PSHE. A survey of school nurses last year by the Royal College of Nursing (3) found that 80% of all respondents were teaching in the classroom (87% in state schools and 58% in independent schools). The school nurse's expertise in health subjects is recognised: commenting on the new PSHE arrangements, the teacher's union Voice says: "Teachers are not necessarily experts in these fields and so would require training, or support from appropriate health professionals." (4)

School nurses are already contributing to the PSHE curriculum by teaching about subjects such as emotional health and wellbeing, sex and relationship education (SRE), drugs and alcohol education, healthy lifestyles and healthy eating. In primary schools, topics include personal hygiene, the spread and prevention of diseases, naming the main parts of the body, safety of medicines and other aspects of safety.

Making PSHE a mainstream, compulsory subject area in the curriculum should provide school nurses with a more structured framework for their input.

They can be more confident of public support for what they are doing. The Government consulted widely before introducing the new arrangements, to ensure they were broadly acceptable to the public, teachers and schools. For example, even though parents will not have the right to withdraw their children from PSHE lessons once they are 15, research undertaken by the Department for Children, Schools and Families found that four out of five parents think all young people should receive SRE (5). The changes give school nurses a more secure basis when dealing with sensitive or controversial areas of PSHE.

An Ofsted report on PSHE (6) in 2007 found considerable variation in standards of teaching and criticised poor lesson planning. As a result, the Government will now strengthen teachers' training to prepare them better for PSHE. But school nurses, too, need training and preparation to teach PSHE to a professional standard, and will need to press hard for this. Training such as the PSHE certificate course (7) is available, but the problem for school nurses is finding the funding and time to undertake courses when the service is already so overstretched.

Ideally nurses and teachers will prepare together for PSHE. In one example of good practice (8), teachers and nurses participated jointly in a continuing professional development course for PSHE, funded partly from the PCT's drug education project.

School nurses have many valuable contributions to make in PSHE, not least that pupils can come to them afterwards with any personal queries or worries, knowing that the nurse is a health professional and they can speak in confidence and without embarrassment. All school nurses need now is more staff and dedicated time for this important work, which has so much potential to help young people achieve a safer, healthier future.


(1.) Teachernet. Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education. November 2009. subjects/pshe/o

(2.) Macdonald, Sir A. Independent Review of the proposal to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education statutory. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009. Downloadable from http://publications. (accessed 4 Feb 2010)

(3.) Ball J. School Nursing in 2009. London: Royal College of Nursing. assets/pdf_file/0007/275857/003552.pdf (accessed 4 Feb 2009)

(4.) Voice. cfm/page/_sections.contentdetail.cfm/navid/11/ parentid/325/id/1295/_sa/17/navid/509/parentid/328 (accessed 4 Feb 2010)

(5.) Department for Children, Schools and Families. Press Notice 2009/0208. Issued 2009

(6.) Ofsted. Time for Change? Personal, Social and Health Education. London: Ofsted, 2007

(7.) Department of Health (DH) and Department for Education and Skills (DES). Delivering Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE). DH and DES, 2006.

(8.) Teachernet. Case Studies. Building Capacity for CPD. (No date given.) http://www.teachernet. = 449 (accessed 4 Feb 2010)

Pat Scowen MA SRN HV


Source Citation
Scowen, Pat. "School nurses and PSHE." School Health Journal 6.1 (2010): 1. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 Mar. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A219519290

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