According to the Polnay report 9.6 per cent of children under 15 have an illness which chronically reduces their capacity to function, 12 per cent of 11-year-olds will have significant visual impairment, 5 to 10 per cent of school entrants will have a significant degree of hearing impairment and 10 per cent of children suffer from a psychiatric disorder.
Health checks and health promotion programmes vary from area to area, but Polnay recommends the following core programme be delivered to every child of school age: Year 1
The school nurse should carry out a structured school entrant health interview conducted with the child's parent. She or he should also organise height and weight checks, complete pre-school checks of heart and testes, and check any other concerns. She or he should also organise visual acuity and hearing checks, identify any concerns with teachers and check that by the age of 5, the child has had the full courses of diptheria and tetanus, pertussis, polio, Hib and MMR immunisations. A child should be referred on to a paediatrician where necessary.
Suggested health promotion topics: adjustments to school, road safety, water safety, diet, exercise, hygiene, dental health, self-protectionavoiding abuse.
Visual acuity and height and weight checks should be carried out where any concern is indicated; or a general health check if there is any concern or special circumstances.
Health promotion topics: as before, but also smoking, sun exposure, sex education, drugs, alcohol.
Visual acuity checks, colour vision - opportunity for a general health check depending on special concerns or circumstances. BCG immunisation required.
Health promotion: as before, but also sexual health, parenting skills, teenage counselling, contraception, stress and relaxation, self referrals to nurse or doctor.
General health questionnaire sent to parents and pupils to identify health issues they wish to discuss. General health interview, giving opportunity for individual health promotion.
Health promotion: as before, but also careers advice for those with specific medical conditions such as colour blindness, asthma, etc.
Diptheria, tetanus and polio immunisation.
The Clean Gang
School nurses in the Chapeltown district of Leeds have sparked the imagination of thousands of school children by introducing them to the Clean Gang.
Catchy songs about the activities of Tessie Toothpaste, Harry Hairbrush, Flossie Flannel and Nellie Nailbrush have made hygiene and good habits fun for the under-8s. The original pick-up-and-go teaching packs won a national award for innovation and have sold all over the world.
Now the nurses are launching a Clean Gang video for schools.
As Christina Shaw-Shehab, co-ordinator of the project, points out: "Hand-washing is a huge public health issue. Thousands of school days are lost because children and staff fail to wash their hands and develop gastroenteritis."
* The Clean Gang Video, Pounds 14.99 (exc pp) and the teaching package Pounds 34.99 (or Pounds 44.99 for both, exc pp) are available from Hifza International Ltd, 100 Westbourne Road, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire HD1 4L5.Tel: 01484 545011