Shock over 'healthy schools' figures
MANY schools in Suffolk are failing to hit Government targets for giving children a healthy start in life, it has emerged.Startling new figures reveal Suffolk has the lowest proportion of schools in the region achieving “healthy schools status”, also leaving it at the bottom of the national table.
MANY schools in Suffolk are failing to hit Government targets for giving children a healthy start in life, it has emerged.
Startling new figures reveal Suffolk has the lowest proportion of schools in the region achieving “healthy schools status”, also leaving it at the bottom of the national table.
Only 14.2% have met Government standards on healthy eating, physical education, sex and drug education as well as emotional health.
But last night a teachers' union warned the figures may not reflect what schools are doing for the health of pupils.
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Martin Goold, Suffolk county secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) told the EADT: “These statistics suggest that headteachers and governing bodies in Suffolk have chosen not to make healthy schools a priority.
“The only way of boosting that would be to have some earmarked funding, with support from local government or national government, which addresses this lack of funding.”
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Earlier this month, it emerged that thousands of primary school children in Suffolk are to be weighed and measured as part of a Whitehall initiative to tackle obesity and promote a healthier lifestyle.
It is thought around 15,000 youngsters will be taking part in the survey, which is being carried out by Suffolk's Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) with all state and some independent schools in the county.
Mr Goold added: “All that the statistics are showing is how many schools have got the accreditation of healthy schools.
“It is quite possible that schools are doing a great deal themselves locally but without going through the process of registering and jumping through the hoops to become accredited as a healthy school.
“We would encourage schools to become registered and accepted as healthy schools because of the profile that gives to all the issues around it.”
The healthy schools programme was set up by the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), while the spotlight on health in schools was strengthened by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's TV crusade Jamie's School Dinners.
The programme aims to create schools that invest in health to help raise pupil achievement and improve standards.
A spokesperson from the DfES said yesterday they wanted half the country's schools to have health status by the end of 2006.
She added: “This is also in the context of new strict minimum standards which we will be introducing from this September. These will effectively ban junk food from sale in all schools.”
In a written House of Commons answer earlier this month, Jim Knight, minister of state for schools, revealed that Suffolk has the fourth lowest percentage of schools achieving the healthy status.
The figures vary widely between local authorities, with Essex having 47.6% of schools meeting the standards while England's rate lies at 45.8%.
But a spokesman for Essex County Council said its latest figures show the number of schools in the county achieving the status had now risen to around 70%.
He said: “The Essex Healthy Schools Partnership has done an astonishing job in shaping health habits in our schools.
“It is not simply a matter of helping schools to ensure they provide high-quality, nutritious meals. The healthy schools ethos covers every element of school life - exercise, physical health, emotional well-being and sport. It engages with pupils in the most creative and dynamic ways.
“Essex schools have responded to this agenda with terrific enthusiasm. Clearly everyone involved - staff, pupils and parents - has embraced these ideas, to the extent that more than two thirds of our schools have now earned accreditation as healthy schools.”
In Suffolk, 205 out of the 350 schools are now participating in the healthy schools programme but only 48 have currently gained accreditation.
But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said he did not think the Government figures reflected the activity going on in schools.
He said: “Targets are set by central Government and we have to try and meet them. They are a target rather than a fixed thing.”
He said even if Government targets were not met, the impact would still be achieved and added that the council was more interested in the long term benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Norman Foster, acting consultant in the public health team at Suffolk East PCTs, said: “We are disappointed that the figures are not reflecting a fair representation of the facts.”