Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association

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Continuing professional development: Certification of community nurses to support PSHE
(including sex and relationship education)

Effective personal, social and health education (PSHE) alongside citizenship, is an essential part of a young personís life. It involves acquiring information, developing skills and forming positive beliefs, values and attitudes that will be of benefit to children and young people now and in the future. It should relate to their needs and support them as they develop and deal with change.

Within PSHE, an effective sex and relationship education (SRE) programme can equip all children and young people to make informed personal choices throughout their lives. Improving SRE within PSHE is a key element of both the teenage pregnancy and sexual health and HIV strategies to promote positive healthy friendships and sexual relationships and help prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, SEU 1999 & National Strategy for Sexual Health and HIV, DH 2001).

Through this new programme and its approach, there is an excellent opportunity to profile the important public health role of community nurses professionals in contributing to reducing health inequalities and raising levels of achievement in schools.

Teachers and health professionals have complementary roles in the provision of effective sex and relationship education programmes in schools. The significance of the contribution of community nurses was emphasised in Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation (DH 1999) and Making a Difference (DH 1999) and is further explored in the School Nurse Practice Development Resource Pack (DH 2001). Community nurses are in a unique position to support and enhance school based SRE through their knowledge, expertise, skills and links between school, home (parents/carers) and communities. The importance of having specialist teachers of PSHE in schools is also recognised in the recent OFSTED report on sex and relationships (OFSTED 2002).

The Health Development Agency, Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills have recently completed the successful pilot programme Professional Development and the Certification of the Teaching of PSHE. Planning is now underway to begin the development of a pilot for community nurses in January 2003 following a similar process capturing the experience and learning from the teachersí work.

The aim of this programme is to develop a structured standards framework to enable community nurses to become PSHE specialists, which will highlight and promote the particular knowledge and skills they can bring to this work, spread evidence based practice and maximise the added value of their contribution.

t is envisaged that the pilot will run for one year from April 2003 and be externally evaluated. We will hold a number of consultation events to enable colleagues to inform the pilot. As with the teachersí work, this will be a genuine pilot allowing the experiences of those participating to shape the development of the final programme.

Taking participantsí and external evaluation feedback into consideration, a national roll out programme will follow the pilot year from April 2004.

It is envisaged that groups of community nurses professionals will be recruited in the nine Government Office Regions to take part in the pilot during Spring 2003. Individuals will then use a draft standards framework to evidence good practice supported by colleagues working in local learning networks.

For more information please contact Wendy Arnold-Dean, National Adviser, Schools and Young Peopleís Health, Health Development Agency at or on 020 7061 3073.