Health check for every teen

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
Physical and emotional check-ups and 'opportunity cards' are the big ideas in new youth green paper, reports Michael Shaw

Every pupil will have their physical and emotional health checked at secondary school under plans to improve support for teenagers.

The proposal for a "personal health MoT" for 12 to 13-year-olds was included in the Government's long-delayed youth green paper, which was published this week.

Details of how the checks would be carried out have not been decided, but the paper states that pupils would receive advice afterwards from trained staff on matters such as their diets The Secondary Heads Association said the checks seemed a good idea but hoped they would be funded from health, not education, budgets.

This week David Bell, chief inspector, said schools need to do more to support pupils' mental health. An Ofsted report said only a small minority of schools were working towards or had met government criteria for pupils' emotional health and well-being.

Other proposals, already widely-publicised, in the paper include an "opportunity card" for 13 to 16-year-olds, which they will be able to use to pay for sports, drama and other constructive activities.

The card will be piloted in eight local authorities and, if it is successful, the Government will give every teenager a card with pound;12 credit, with those on free meals getting an extra pound;12 a month.

Parents will be able to top up the amount on the card.

Pupils will also get extra credit for good attendance and results. But bad behaviour, reported by teachers or the police, could lead to the card being suspended.

The paper also set out plans to revamp careers services (see box) and introduce minimum standards for the advice secondary schools give pupils.

Other proposals include a ring-fenced fund of pound;30,000 per council, which young people will have a say in allocating. Beverley Hughes, children's minister, said the paper's chief aim was to provide the same joined-up services for teenagers that the Government is starting to create for younger children through its Every Child Matters strategy.

Pupils deemed to need extra attention will be assigned a "lead professional" to act as their main contact. Ms Hughes said teachers would not usually be expected to take up this role but could if they wished.

An Ofsted report on youth services this week concluded that too many were inadequate, often because of poor leadership and staff shortages.

However, it found several examples of excellent youth work including at the Steps club in Weymouth, Dorset. The club has been running its own form of health MoT where young people are assessed after taking part in step aerobics and blowing into a "smokealyser". They then receive advice on matters such as safe sex and healthy eating.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

Youth Matters is available at: www.dfes.gov.ukpublicationsyouth

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