Social Responsibility - Students join bone marrow register
Schools are to be targeted in a joint attempt by a blood cancer charity and Scottish firefighters to significantly increase the number of young people on the bone marrow register.
The campaign by the Anthony Nolan trust to sign up secondary schools will begin in west Scotland before spreading across the country, but has been criticised by some parents for its "hard sell" to teenagers.
The nationwide drive follows a successful trial at Biggar High School in South Lanarkshire, where 68 S5 and S6 students added their names to the bone marrow register held by the trust.
Some 30,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with blood cancer every year and one type, leukaemia, is the single most common cancer in children.
Ally Boyle, local senior officer for South Lanarkshire with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder five years ago. Since then local firefighters have been working with the Anthony Nolan trust to increase the number of potential donors in the UK.
Their efforts have resulted in almost 5,000 names being added to the bone marrow register, leading to more than 120 matches and seven people going on to donate. Research has revealed that young donors offer the best chance of a successful match.
Representatives of Biggar High's parent council said they were "impressed" with the "very informative" talk delivered by the charity but were critical of pressure to sign up. They said they would have liked information prior to the presentation in order to discuss it with their children.
But headteacher Robert Stewart said that the school wanted to place the onus on students to make the decision, in keeping with its ethos of encouraging them to take responsibility.
After the presentation, they were encouraged to discuss what they had heard with their parents, and information about the issue was made available to parents on the day of the talk. A week later, students were given the opportunity to join the register, a process that took just 10 minutes and involved them giving a sample of their saliva.