Louise Nichols, Headteacher of Gayhurst Primary tells us how she promotes health across her schools...
If you want to get involved with the campaign, you can tweet UK Secretary of State for Education, @DamianHinds with the hashtag #healthyschools
Where are we now?
I’ve been a headteacher of 3 schools in London for a number of years. When I first started, I saw that the health of kids in the schools in the deprived areas was worse than the schools where most kids were from more affluent backgrounds. It’s not a coincidence that child obesity levels are twice as high in deprived areas. I felt really strongly that school food, food education and exercise should not just be the privilege of kids in schools with money and time.
How do we promote health in our schools?
When I made the decision to focus on the health of the kids, I started from the position that health should be across the whole of the school. It’s not about a token gesture… a few more carrots on the side of a plate is a great start, but if they don’t know why carrots are good for them and they don’t have the cooking confidence, they probably won’t eat them anyway.
So that’s why we’ve tried to look at everything we do from a health perspective. We’ve been lucky enough to get on board with the Chefs in Schools program. This means that the food quality has gone up while the cost has gone down. The chefs also visit science classes to talk about nutrition and healthy eating, and even providing vegetables for kids to draw in art class. It’s truly a whole school approach!
There’s also a big outdoor space where kids can play after lunch, plus pupils are encouraged to walk a ‘Daily Mile’ on their way to school. The whole school environment has been designed to promote better kids’ health.
What results have we seen?
Teachers report that children are more on the ball than ever. They’re more enthusiastic about healthy food. And they concentrate better in class.
Several studies have shown that healthy lifestyles, including eating habits and physical activity, are associated with improved academic achievement, while increased fast food consumption leads to lower levels of achievement in reading, maths and science. But I’ve seen this in practice.
With so many competing priorities, how can we create space for school leaders to look at improving health too?
We’ve got a really big opportunity. Ofsted are reviewing their inspection framework and we could finally broaden their focus from exam results. A Healthy Schools Rating Scheme would give other school leaders the mandate to focus on food, food education and PE & Sports. Why don’t we support school leaders, by using funds raised from the sugary drinks levy to promote health in their schools?
The scheme could apply to all schools, no matter what their status, so it raises standards across the whole country. Good health should not be the privilege of schools that can afford to create that environment.
If you saw the show and want to get involved, tweet UK Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds: “.@DamianHinds, our schools want a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme to celebrate what they’re doing to keep kids healthy #healthyschools”