Wendy with PantsSchool nurses from all around the world gathered in Greenwich last week to network and celebrate how they are making a difference to children and young people’s lives.

England’s Chief nurse Viv Bennett and Wendy Nicholson (@wendyjnicholson), both from Public Health England (PHE), opened the four-day proceedings alongside memorable entertainment from a group of dancers and singers, who set up a washing line full of underwear emblazened with positive and empowering single word messages. The following day school nurse delegates each chose a button and were told that each individual button was symbolic of how different every C&YP is that they come into contact with.
Young people were very much the focus of the event, with young carers and young people from Youthforia (@YouthforiaNW) participating in both the talks and workshops, providing valuable feedback as well as tweeting. Dr David Evans (@David_T_Evans) gave an excellent and amusing speech on sex education which didn’t shy away from conveying the clear message that we need to be more open and positive when dealing with sexual health matters. ‘There’s no education without sex education’, was just one of his many memorable lines.

Young carers Lauren Goddard and Sophie Dishman also gave moving accounts of what it was like to be a young carer and Eustace de Sousa from PHE offered a welcome reminder that although there have been many recent improvements in public health (smoking rates are generally down, for example), the valuable skill sets a school nurse offers are needed more than ever.

The event also brought together the twitter community to meet in person, both individually and representing the @weschoolnurses banner. One of them, Michelle Sobande (@MichelleSobande) offered a pledge that all school nurses vowed to adopt. She said that when school nurses question a child or YP about their personal circumstances they should gently ask, ‘Do you help to care for someone at home’. This is because, she said, young people may not identify themselves as carers – looking after a loved one could just be a normal reality to them, so it’s best to steer clear of ‘labels’. Sharon White from SAPHNA, who was instrumental in organising the programme alongside Wendy Nicholson, gave an empowering closing speech imploring school nurses to work ‘smarter not harder’.

There was a celebratory dinner to end proceedings in the Painted Hall at Greenwich Naval College on Thursday evening. SNIC founder Mary Henley was presented with an award and gave a speech on how she couldn’t believe how a small meeting of school nurses in Oxford in 1981 had turned into such a big international event. Wendy Nicholson, proudly told JFH editor Penny Hosie that the two years of planning had been worth it and she and Sharon White were thrilled that their vision of placing young people at the heart of the agenda was fulfilled so successfully.

Look out for our full event round up in the next issue of JFH (25.5), out this September.