Pupil welfare must come first

9th December 2005 at 00:00
In the face of ever-increasing demands and reductions in school funding, how can we keep the profile of our children's welfare ahead of government policy ("Pupils must be our top priority", TES Cymru, November 25)?

Every school is wrestling with this dilemma. As a school-based nurse in a large comprehensive, I felt the chill breeze of oncoming budgetary restrictions with the possibility of a further reduction in hours. What choice does a headteacher have - lose the science teacher or the nurse?

Despite sincere regret at hearing of my reluctant move to another post, my head surely breathed a private sigh of relief that, by replacing me with a first-aider, he could honourably save on the annual budget.

More worrying is the school which has no first-aider or pupil welfare officer, and whose pupils either "button up" or express anxieties in self-harming ways. Caring as the form teacher or head of year is, the teaching day does not always allow for open access to a troubled youngster whose problem cannot wait.

A good school nurse or counsellor should always complement the teaching staff ethos and vice-versa. The important thing is that the child talks to someone who has the knowledge and skills to deal appropriately with a situation.

How often have we heard the tortured plea, "could I have a word privately?"

and received stories ranging from upset at the death and toilet disposal of a much-loved goldfish to a disclosure of profound abuse?

You do need appropriately-trained staff, especially in relation to child-protection issues, but you will be hard-pressed to better a school-based nurse as a skilled professional for pupils and staff.

Government policy is recognising the need for all children to have access to a professional for advice and support on health and related matters. But how long do our children have to wait for these ideas to be implemented and funded?

Where the welfare of our children is supposed to be paramount, it is time their welfare at school was properly funded.

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