Food campaigners back long-awaited healthy schools rating scheme

By Joe Lepper

| 21 March 2019

A group of more than 30 healthy food campaigners are calling on the government to bring in proposals it made almost three years ago to rate schools on how well they are promoting children's health and combating obesity.

A survey shows parents and staff overwhelmingly support a healthy food rating system for schools. Picture: School Food Matters

The government's 2016 Childhood Obesity Plan proposed a healthy schools rating scheme to show how well schools are supporting children's health.

But nearly three years on and the scheme has yet to get under way.

The group, being led by the charity School Food Matters and including Jamie Oliver, says almost all parents and school staff support the scheme.

A School Food Matters survey of just under 1,000 parents and other family members, school staff and governors found that 97 per cent want the scheme to be implemented.

A rise in childhood obesity, availability of unhealthy snacks and the poor quality of school meals are among concerns raised by those surveyed.

A report released by School Food Matters detailing the survey's findings, is also calling for the scheme to be mandatory for all state funded schools and monitored by Ofsted.

Among those surveyed majority (85 per cent) said that it should be compulsory for schools and three quarters (72 per cent) backed it being overseen by Ofsted.

 

One parent told the charity: "My 12-year-old has put two inches on around his waist since starting high school. He says there is muffins and cookies among other things on offer, as much as we educate him about health, these items are quite tempting for kids."

Another parent, of a primary school pupil, added: "School food is generally poor. My children yesterday had pizza, chips and ice cream. That is not a healthy balanced meal and is increasing childhood obesity."

The government should also bring in further ways of encouraging schools to promote healthy eating and children's health through accreditation schemes and awards, adds School Food Matters' report.

"Our report has been supported by over 30 organisations including our campaign partners, Jamie Oliver, Food for Life and the Children's Food Campaign," says a School Food Matters statement.

"We'll be joining together to put pressure on the Department for Education to get this much-needed scheme across the line."

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Schools already do an enormous amount to support children to keep themselves healthy and we are introducing health education universally in school from 2020 to teach young people about healthy eating, what constitutes a healthy diet and how to prepare a range of healthy meals.

"We are committed to delivering a healthy schools rating scheme, which will recognise and encourage schools' contributions to preventing obesity by helping children to eat better and move more.

"We are continuing to work with partners on the detail of this scheme to make sure it is effective for every school."

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