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Monday, April 25, 2011

Return of the nit nurse: Parents demand action to combat head lice in schools

By Sophie Borland

Lice-ence to kill: Young girls line up to have their scalps mauled in days gone by

Their inspections were a source of shame and embarrassment for generations of schoolchildren.

But having been gradually phased out because their efforts were considered intrusive, nit nurses could make a comeback.

Hundreds of parents have signed a petition calling for the nurses to be reinstated and claiming that head lice is now a ‘nationwide health issue’.

The petition is being organised by mothers whose children attend Christ Church Primary School in Rhyl, North Wales. They intend to take it to their local primary care trust and possibly the Government.

The petition reads: ‘We want to raise awareness of the ongoing problem of head lice. This is not just a local problem, this is a nationwide health issue which needs addressing.’

The group has the backing of Chris Ruane, Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd. ‘I certainly remember visits by the nit nurse into schools and it certainly is something the health and education authorities should consider reintroducing,’ he said.

Nit nurses used to visit primary schools once or twice a year and check pupils’ hair with a fine-toothed comb. If lice were discovered, parents were told to treat their children’s hair with a special lotion.

But as inspections were carried out in front of classmates, those found to have head lice would often be bullied by their peers.

As a result nit nurses were phased out in the 1990s and parents were encouraged to carry out checks at home. But there is concern that many are too busy to bother and as a result lice are spreading rapidly in primary schools.

Last year a survey of 4,000 parents found that 85 per cent welcomed the return of the nit nurse. And several petitions have been delivered to the Prime Minister calling for the inspections to be reinstated.

Nit picking: A mother combs her daughters hair with a head lice comb

Support: Chris Ruane, Vale of Clwyd MP, is behind the nit nurse campaign



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