Healthy part of the curriculum

16:00, Nov 22 2012
Chapel downs primary school
HEALTH KICK: Principal Vaughan van Rensburg, back, social worker Pae Sime, left, and Family Service Centre manager Rosemary Buckley are determined to have a healthy school full of healthy minds.

Giving students a good education is about doing more than just teaching for one primary school.

Chapel Downs Primary School is making sure its pupils are healthy and ready to learn.

The school has just received a fulltime nurse under the Counties Manukau District Health Board's Mana Kidz Programme. And last month it welcomed social worker Paea Sime to the already robust Family Service Centre.

Principal Vaughan van Rensburg has worked hard to offer the school community a full wrap-around service since taking the reins in term 2.

He has put initiatives in place and reached out to the community to understand exactly what they feel is needed.

"We want to be advocates for the parents with whatever we can to help make their lives easier so they can provide better opportunities for their kids."


The community has already come back to the school with suggestions for guidance and help around water safety, curriculum vitae writing, nutrition and budgeting.

He says by making all these services readily available through the Family Service Centre the school is being a catalyst for change.

These changes aren't "handouts, they are hand-ups" that reshape the very foundations of the students' lives, he says.

"We see the need to get that immediate help for parents so we can take some of that stress away or give them opportunity for services they need."

One of the driving forces behind having health nurses in schools is the nationwide rheumatic fever prevention programme. The nurses will be carrying out throat swabbing to catch streptococcal infection in its early stages. If what is commonly known as strep throat is left untreated it can lead to rheumatic fever.

The disease is commonly associated with Third World countries but in New Zealand acute rheumatic fever admissions cost $12 million annually.

Health board child, youth and maternity manager Sue Miller says with 70 per cent of cases occurring in children aged from 5 to 14 the throat swabbing checks are an effective way of tackling the problem. Chapel Downs is one of 16 high risk schools to receive a nurse this year and another 34 are set to gain that service by the end of term 1 next year.

"We are doing the sore throat swabbing but the model we are rolling out is actually much more than that.

"We are looking at other activities that we can do to support the families and kids at these schools."

She says the Mana Kidz programme also focuses on skin infections, preventing accidental injuries and supporting families to link into other services such as housing assessments.

"It is easily accessible for them, it's free and they are getting good and consistent care for their kids."

Eastern Courier