The school nurse workforce needs to be greatly increased, if the campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM) is to be successful, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Friday 7 February).
Unite, which embraces the Community and Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said that school nurses would be in an excellent position to assess FGM issues and give practical assistance to pupils.
However, Unite said that there are not enough school nurses – and there needs to be a recruitment drive, reflecting the UK’s diverse population, and also greater training.
Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said: “After years of campaigning, the issue of FGM and the lasting harm it does to young girls and women in later life has jumped to the top of the political agenda, which we warmly welcome.
“However, this is a complex area with layers of cultural sensitivities which pose challenges to health professionals, including health visitors and school nurses.
“School nurses need to be at the forefront of this campaign, but there are not enough of them. Latest workforce statistics (October 2013) show only 1,169 full time qualified school nurses in England.
“But there are more than 4,000 secondary schools in the UK, so we need 3,000 more school nurses in the first phase, with the eventual goal of 6,000 more.
“FGM is a key opportunity for teachers, with school nurse support, to educate and support children. The Department for Education has expressed that it wants to work with health and teaching unions on this.
“We must improve knowledge of all professionals working with children so that cultural understanding - or lack of - is not an issue.
“For those who have already been affected by FGM, we need to ensure they have access to the right specialist services to support them.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Notes to editors
• Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.