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NT speaks to Sharon White, School and Public Health Nurse Association professional officer about sex education in schools.

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A three-minute interview with Sharon White, School and Public Health Nurse Association professional officer about teaching sex education in schools.

NT: What do you think about the Department for Children, Schools and Families Review of Sex and Relationship Education and the decision that Personal Social and Health Education is to become compulsory?

SW: We welcome both the report and the decision and feel that it is right that the subject has a compulsory place on the curriculum. Like the report, we too have concerns and would seek clarification from the Department of Health, firstly around the numbers of school nurses there are, because we have not seen the increase we were expecting or that we would desire.

‘Secondly, I would also seek assurance on the level of school nurse involvement, because in some cases their role may be more around training staff. I would say that while the external agencies, like the NHS, should have a role in delivering compulsory PSHE, it is should not solely be delivered by them.

‘What needs to happen is that the teaching staff need to have support to deliver this, because in some instances it will be more appropriate they deliver it themselves, especially with the younger children because they already have an existing relationship with them and that can be important when dealing primary school children.

‘This is not the same for those in senior school, because they are at an age where they are less likely to discuss sex and relationships with people they already know.’

NT: What impact will this have?

SW: We would all hope this has a positive impact and is defiantly the way forward but if it to work then we will need to see a few changes.’

NT: So, what does needs to happen to make the plan happen and indeed is it possible?

SW: I think the role of school nurse need to be redefined, in terms of what she does who she sees, and where her remit ends. School need a clear definition of what they are there to do, and it may mean extending the role.

‘There needs to be a change to make sure there is school nurse involvement form the ages of five to 19. It is all very well the government saying they want a qualified school nurse in every secondary school by 2010, but what about the children that are 14 year olds and leaving school to take courses at colleges? How are we meant to reach them when the service ends at secondary school?

‘There also needs a change in the way that school nurses are commissioned, and there needs to be more understanding of what the school nurse does. Local authorities need to work with their PCT to make sure they have exactly the right level of staff in place. The service is patchy – some school are employing their own nurse and others are hit and miss.

‘Schools don’t always understand what is needed so there really does need to be some joined up working that goes with this. I am also hoping there will be some work around how all of this is measure so we can make sure that schools are all doing the same thing.’

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