Quality education won’t come close to what nurses can do without funding | Sune Dodds

Nurses play a critical role in the health service, and hospitals are vital to the wellbeing of their communities.

However, not only are nurses important, they are an empowering workforce who inspire children, young people and adults to reach their potential. There is an urgent need to ensure more nurses are available to children and young people across Wales and get a quality education.

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If we don’t improve the status of nurses in schools, we will see schools built with large gaps between sections of toilets and a lack of nurses to deliver consistent care. Nurses will be scarce throughout, leaving children to delay immunisations or other vital health checks.

Even if nurses are available, lack of coursework is leaving children and young people unable to advance their careers. We all know that nurses spend a large amount of time teaching and learning, but education providers frequently do not have the funding to provide enough subject-specific teaching assistants, if any at all.

When I was at primary school, every year 12 project was subject-specific: this wasn’t just a test or a project to measure knowledge, it was the only way to progress and achieve much greater achievements. I remember headteachers pushing to teach our subjects more complexly, but this often means teachers are forced to teach for two-and-a-half to three hours a day.

However, even if a teacher does choose to teach for more hours, the irony is that it will become an isolated element of the teacher’s curriculum – students will see it as a skill, not a step on the educational ladder. While we have the right to demand that the curriculum doesn’t just drop them off, schools often do not have the funds to encourage all pupils to gain an understanding of the different parts of learning.

In Wales, children are falling through the cracks. We have published a comprehensive report on this, and shared it with MPs. The clear conclusion is that there are too few nurses in schools and with enough time to move into advanced nursing, not enough teachers can fulfil the same requirements.

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This might seem like a simple argument, but this is why it is so important. Understanding that health issues and the challenges they can cause can be more widely and consistently addressed, is incredibly important in helping young people to succeed. Too often I’ve come across children in primary school who can’t do basic tasks like tying their shoes or brushing their teeth.

Culturally, many children learn to be independent and self-sufficient with their physical ability and independence. We’ve all heard of the UK leaving education at 16, yet we also have a responsibility to ensure our younger generations develop the skills and confidence to develop into independent, employed adults.

Nurses are ready to lead and help their school community build on the positive and challenging activities that they engage in. It is very easy to talk about health issues and challenges for adults, but the question is how we do this for children – but that doesn’t have to be a contradiction. We can respond to the challenges children face in the classroom by ensuring that we get the nurses they need to maintain and grow their confidence and capabilities.

Our report recognised that the lack of funding for education provision can only be addressed if we address the teaching workforce. Some schools have even reached a point where they have been asked to bring in some of their governors to be teaching assistants. While this is an excellent approach to address the gap, schools and central governments must take steps to improve the education of young people across Wales.

Nurses make healthcare more effective and timely, and therefore more effective for the people they serve. We live in a world where we can access healthcare from the blink of an eye, and as a sector we rely on nurses’ intervention.

Every action, such as putting headteachers to work teaching for two hours a day, and funding for nurse-led learning groups in schools, creates a level playing field for nurses to help their profession reach the highest level. We need more nurses in our schools to have these positive relationships and deliver children’s potential to their fullest.

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