Alongside a review by the Scottish Government of the role of school nurses, we asked children and young people what type of issues they would like support with in their lives and they responded with a wide range spanning physical, social, emotional, mental and behavioural needs.
The younger group were particularly anxious about illnesses such as cancer, and how to cope if a close family member received such a diagnosis or was in poor health.
“My grandad had cancer three times-I try to see him alot.” (Primary school participant)
The older group wanted to talk about about life skills.
“[We are] taught about careers but not actually about how to live.” (High school participant)
Participants discussed factors that would hinder them from seeking school nurses. Some of the reasons included perceived loyalty to families and not wanting to alert social services to anything wrong:
“Private, it’s not about you it’s also about your family.” (High school participant)
“It could make them look like a bad parent if you don’t have anything to eat or if your mum is struggling as well.” (High school student)
Some doubted whether speaking to anyone would make a difference:
“[I] feel like nobody can help you.”
We also asked what factors might help participants engage with school nurses:
“Someone who is able to listen, someone who you are able to trust.” (High school participant)
“Someone you have met at least once or twice.” (High school student)
“Would know if someone had gone to them before and they had got good advice.” (High school participant)
“Someone who is available.” (High school participant)
Considering how the school nurse service could be shaped to support them, participants had varied preferences. Some felt that speaking to a school nurse at home could help them speak to their family and, in turn, help their families to better understand them:
“They would be more understanding. Might be good because you may feel you don’t have to tell your family – the nurse can do it for you.” (High school participant)
While others, concerned with privacy and not wanting their families to worry about issues they might be experiencing, preferred to access the service at school:
“Well I think it is good in school because it might be private and you talk to them in private away from your family.” (High school student)
Another option explored was meeting in a community centre:
“[A] big, open space… to be quiet… not crowded by anybody.”