Warning over school nurse numbers

Reduction means vulnerable at risk says RCN

Falling numbers of school nurses are putting vulnerable children at risk, the RCN has warned.

School nurses can help protect children from exploitation. Picture: iStock

The RCN has highlighted figures to coincide with its annual school nurses conference today revealing that the number of school nursing posts has fallen by 13% since 2010.

This means there are now 2,606 school nurses left in England, compared with 2,995 in 2010.

The RCN said the falling numbers puts vulnerable children at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse because school nurses play a key role in identifying and safeguarding against potential threats.

Healthy relationships

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: ‘At a time when children are facing unprecedented exposure to influences like pornography and sexualised advertising, it has never been so important to equip them with a solid understanding of healthy relationships.

‘School nurses are there for all children and young people, providing support, encouraging healthy lifestyles and protecting those who are most vulnerable.

‘They have the training and expertise to drive forward effective sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools. However, with numbers dropping all the time, school nurses simply don’t have the capacity to follow this through.’

Prioritising expertise

‘The government should be prioritising this expertise, not cutting the roles when we need them most.’

Ms Smith added that the college supports the call for SRE to be made compulsory in all schools, but insisted the workforce must be in place to deliver it.

The conference will take place in Marble Arch, London, and will feature a packed programme of talks and workshops.

Sexual consent

Among the items being discussed will be the challenges of helping children stay safe online and how the law deals with issues of sexual consent.

A recent BBC investigation found that there were 5,500 sexual assaults in the school environment during a three-year period, including one rape nearly every school day.

Meanwhile, a survey by the National Union of Students suggested half of students learn about sex through watching porn, while two thirds receive no information about consent in their sex and relationship education lessons.

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