Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 2
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Chang, Yu-Ting Hayter, Mark and Lin, Mei-Ling 2012. Pubescent male students’ attitudes towards menstruation in Taiwan: implications for reproductive health education and school nursing practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing, Vol. 21, Issue. 3-4, p. 513.

    Chang, Yu-Ting Chen, Yueh-Chih Hayter, Mark and Lin, Mei-Ling 2009. Menstrual and menarche experience among pubescent female students in Taiwan: implications for health education and promotion practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing, Vol. 18, Issue. 14, p. 2040.

  • Primary Health Care Research & Development, Volume 9, Issue 1
  • January 2008, pp. 75-84

School nurse management of children’s questions when they are involved in primary school sex education: an exploratory study

  • Hilary Piercy (a1) and Mark Hayter (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2008

The aim of this paper is to explore school nurses’ experiences of teaching Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) as part of the primary school curriculum. In particular, it focuses on the questions that the children ask during the lessons and the strategies the nurses employ in managing those questions.


School-based SRE is an important aspect of children’s education. However, it is a highly politicised and controversial area, which is a matter of concern to a number of stakeholders. In the primary school setting, school nurses are commonly involved in delivery of the programme. Their input is particularly valued, because they are ‘specialist outsiders’ who create an environment that is conducive to discussion of sensitive topics. To date, there is little understanding of the skills that they employ in managing the educational needs of primary school children within the confines of a pre-agreed school curriculum.


Semistructured focus group interviews were conducted with small groups of school nurses from a single geographical location in the Midlands region of England. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.


Data identified the ways in which the nurses viewed and responded to the children’s agenda, which was realised in the form of questions. In particular, it focuses on what they deemed to be inappropriate questions and the basis on which this label was applied. Five strategies for managing these inappropriate questions were identifiable from the data. Their deployment is explored in relation to the tensions implicit in the realisation of sexualised realities in a classroom setting.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Hilary Piercy, Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Collegiate Crescent Campus, 51-53 Broomgrove Road, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, S1 1 WB, UK. Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

T. Albrecht , G. Johnson , J. Walther 1993: Understanding communication processes in focus groups. In Morgan, D., editor, Successful focus groups: advancing the state of the art. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 5164.

K. Buston , D. Wight , G. Hart 2002: Inside the sex education classroom: the importance of context in engaging pupils. Culture, Health and Sexuality 4, 317335.

K. Buston , D. Wight , S. Scott 2001: Difficulty and diversity: the context and practice of sex education. British Journal of Sociology of Education 22, 353368.

L. Cotton , J. Brazier , D. Hall , G. Lindsay , P. Marsh , L. Polnay , T. Wiliams 2000: School nursing: costs and benefits. Journal of Advanced Nursing 31, 10631071.

E. Croghan , C. Johnson , P. Aveyard 2003: School nurses: policies, working practices, roles and value perceptions. Journal of Advanced Nursing 47, 377385.

P. Cumper 2006: Let’s talk about sex: balancing children’s rights and parental responsibilities. Legal Studies 26, 88108.

J. Diorio , J. Munro 2000: Doing harm in the name of protection: menstruation as a topic for sex education. Gender and Education 12, 347365.

L. Edouard 2006: In condoms we trust; to each, one’s own. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care 32, 262264.

M. Fine 1988: Sexuality, schooling and adolescent females: the missing discourse of desire. Harvard Educational Review 58, 2953.

J. Frey , A. Fontana 1993: The group interview in social research. In Morgan, D., editor, Successful focus groups: advancing the state of the art. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 2034.

J. Hampshire 2005: The politics of School Sex Education Policy in England and Wales from the 1940s to the 1960s. Social History of Medicine 18, 87105.

J. Hampshire , J. Lewis 2004: ‘The ravages of permissiveness’: sex education and the permissive society. Twentieth Century British History 15, 290312.

J. Hirst 2004: Researching young people’s sexuality and learning about sex; experience, need and sex and relationship education. Culture, Health and Sexuality 6, 115129.

J. Lightfoot , W. Bines 2001: Working to keep school children healthy: the complementary roles of school staff and school nurses. Journal of Public Health Medicine 22, 7480.

L. Measor , C. Tiffin , K. Fry 1996: Gender and sex education: a study of adolescent responses. Gender and Education 8, 275288.

L. Measor , C. Tiffin , K. Miller 1999: The impact of health professionals’ involvement in sex education in schools. Nursing Times Research 4, 386393.

D. Monk 1998: Sex education and HIV/AIDS: political conflict and legal resolution. Children and Society 12, 295305.

D. Morgan , R. Kreuger 1993: When to use focus groups and why. In Morgan, D., editor, Successful focus groups: advancing the state of the art. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 319.

V. Strange , A. Oakley , S. Forrest 2003: Mixed-sex or single-sex sex education: how would young people like their sex education and why. Gender and Education 15, 201214.

S. Venis 2005: Lunch with the Lancet – Sarah Philpott. Lancet 365, 565.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Primary Health Care Research & Development
  • ISSN: 1463-4236
  • EISSN: 1477-1128
  • URL: /core/journals/primary-health-care-research-and-development
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *