What are the main features of a health improving school

Parents in the twentieth century do not always provide the best role models for their children. It is down to the schools to enforce a healthier life style that could make a significant difference to their pupils life over a prolonged period of time. The main areas health improving schools aim to change is diet and exercise. In doing this it could benefit the entire community and result in a healthier future generation. Health improving schools contribute to a healthier Scotland by enforcing equality, participation and fairness of treatment for all.

They have compassion that ensures concern, care and respect for oneself and others. Lastly they promote integrity to ensure honesty, responsibility and good judgement. These are all factors that health improving schools aim to achieve contributing to make Scotland a healthier nation Jamie Oliver did a brilliant job in raising awareness of Britain’s diet in schools. In his Channel 4 series Oliver criticised the standards of school catering, with one of the schools in London only spending a mere thirty seven pence per child per day on primary lunches (Online 5 April, 2005) This was less than the cost of prison dinners.

Many politicians were embarrassed by the media attention drawn by Oliver and decided to finally take action. It was announced, after Oliver delivered a petition to Downing Street demanding more money to be spent on school meals, that the government decided to invest an extra ‘two hundred and eighty million over three years’ (Online 5 April, 2005) to improve school lunches. If Oliver hadn’t publicly humiliated the government it could be said that these changes might not have occurred so quick. However although Oliver started the campaign it was the schools that put it into practice.

Speaking from experience primary schools introduced a red and blue tray system where pupils were given a choice of two healthy options. This was a great idea as the pupils were more willing to co-operate as they felt they were choosing what to eat rather than being forced into eating a healthy meal. Every meal was severed with fresh fruit and some sort of vegetable which was an extremely well thought out plan. At high schools the plan did not appear to be as successful as primary schools. Although the dinner ladies were providing pupils with the option of buying jacket potatoes and fresh salads there was a minimal supply of them.

If pupils were not one of the first in the queue there was no chance they would be able to purchase one so it was back to the original burgers and chips idea as there was always a plenty of them. Another great improvement that a health improving high school did was in replacing can and bottle machines with water machines. Although these machines sold flavoured water that contained sugar, the level of sugar was no where near as high in comparison to a can of coke. Primary schools managed to completely remove all types of vending machine which was a great achievement.

The pupils no longer felt the temptation to buy a chocolate bar or a can of coke. If these health improving schools continue to bombard pupils with healthy options from a young enough age it will undoubtedly lead to a healthier Scotland. Another key area health improving schools aim to address is pupils education on their health. Health is one of the most crucial things in life. The government should be ensuring that additional training is prescribed to staff ensuring that the children are educated correctly on the dangers of unhealthy eating.

To help the children make appropriate decisions, they must be provided with adequate information. This could be done through children constructing their own healthy posters advertising the canteens food and drink supplies. If pupils are educated about what they are eating and the effects different foods have on their body then the majority of children are going to be more in favour of healthy eating. If they are shown the advantages of healthy eating such as more energy and fresher skin they will be more inclined to choose healthy meals.

This will eventually lead to healthier Scotland as these pupils will carry this knowledge with them all their lives and hopefully pass it onto their children. Health promoting schools try and incorporated their ideas into pupil’s subjects, such as science and home economics. Pupils could do experiments establishing chemical elements found in foods and reveal the effect that certain foods have on their body. Experiments could consist of a glass of Coca-cola with a coin in it demonstrating the coins erosion of dirt once removed from the drink.

These experiments would be used as shock tactics which could open pupils eyes and persuade them to think again about drinking a bottle of Coca-cola as they will now know the effects it has on their body. These well educated pupils will then be able to use this knowledge to look after themselves properly in choosing appropriate meals which inevitably will lead to a healthier Scotland. Home Economics has an ideal opportunity to educate pupils on a healthy diet. Theory classes should teach pupils about how coronary heart disease is one of the countries biggest killers resulting from a poor diet.

Around eighty percent of cancer sufferers could have prevented their illness through a change in lifestyle. Only forty-five percent of five year olds are free of tooth decay (Online December 2002). Teaching these facts and figures should encourage pupils to keep themselves healthy. This substantially educated community would then be able to look after themselves in cooking healthy meals. As well as this these shock tactics should compel children to reconsider their diet and hopefully prevent them from being one of the eighty percent.

Schools are teaching pupils about healthy foods in their theory sessions and then contradicting themselves by baking fairy cakes and Christmas cakes in practical sessions. The two need to go hand in hand. These are all areas that still need to be fully addressed by health improving schools, the goals are there but not quite in practice yet. One great successes that has been put in practice is breakfast clubs before classes begin, encouraging pupils to eat something nutritious. This provides pupils with healthy alternative options they might not receive at home.

Breakfast is classed to be the most important meal of the day and once they get into the routine of eating in the morning, they will definitely reap the rewards in the future leading to a healthier Scotland. When these small changes are put into action there is no doubt the next generation will be a healthier one. Health promoting schools aim to tackle children’s lack of exercise by putting the governments laws into practice. The government is aiming to have “75% of pupils doing two hours of sport a week, either in or outside the curriculum by 2006” (Online 14th March 2005).

However, this is the difference between health promoting schools and health improving schools as figures reveal that only about “one third of schools are meeting that 75% target” (Online 14th March 2005). Health improving schools are the schools that publicised exercise to their pupils and seize opportunities to make physical education fun and interesting. The health promoting schools take the time to ensure that everyone is participating at a reasonable standard and work their hardest to teach children other valuable skills such as respect and honesty.

These skills are not easily adopted or stressed in an academic situation, as it has a greater impact shown physically. As shown with children’s diet, health improving schools are not alone in the battle to promoting exercise. In 2004 Kelly Holmes aimed to back the school fitness plan. The lack of exercise is being blamed for rapidly increasing rates of childhood obesity however, the two go hand in hand. Ms Holmes and Sports Minister Richard Carbon visited a London school to watch children taking part in a combat class.

Mr Carbon said it is “just the sort of scheme we need to see more of – the private and public sector working hand-in-hand with schools to get children fit and healthy”. Mr Carbon had great enthusiasm for this and wanted “to see all young people getting at least two hours’ of physical education or sport a week but “it has to be interesting and a fun activity too” (Online 24 November 2004). These two people recognise the need for physical activity, like the health improving schools. They are aware that it is a problem that will never go away unless adjustments are made.

If schools change there ways and become more like these health promoting and even improving schools, then it will definitely make a difference over a long period of time contributing to a healthier Scotland. One of the major reasons behind children’s lack of exercise is computers. Children in Britain are gaining access to computer games and DVD’s leading to fewer children playing a simple game of ‘tig’ or football outside because they find computer games much more entertaining. As well as their physical health being affected they are no longer using their imagination to create these wonderful childhood games that our parents used to play.

Schools complain that they are extremely concerned about academic success however if they allowed children to use their own imagination playing games, then maybe pupils would not be scared to use their own initiative to solve problems. This is something that would serve them well later in life. It is clear that health improving schools play a major role in promoting pupils to exercise. The government will be praising theses schools in a few years time for Scotland being a healthier nation. Health promoting schools are closer as a community.

Staff and pupil councils have been created allowing pupils to come together to converse about issues within the school. This helps to promote responsibility amongst certain pupils and allows them to have their own say on what they would like to change in the school. Partnership working is another key area that health promoting schools strive for. It is a beneficial skill which pupils can easily develop through physical education and other practical subjects. It is extremely worthwhile as pupils can use it beyond school life either for interview techniques or team building tasks in their jobs.

One of the major problems today in society is obesity. A ‘poor diet and lack of exercise’ is causing obesity in children (Online 16th August 2003). Some schools are being advised to ‘weigh and measure’ (Online 16th August 2003) their pupils in attempt to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. Some people find it difficult to understand why there are an abundance of obese children and a lack of health promoting schools however, it is not surprising as many schools find it difficult to keep the standards up.

Pressure to compete with other schools in academic achievements places a tremendous amount of strain onto the class and head teachers. The main focus in schools is on academic results. If this trend was to continue Scotland as a nation would be an extremely unhealthy one. The results show only 32% of children exercise thirty minutes five times a week, putting Britain well below a number of its European counterparts (Online 14th March 2005).

Even though the government is aiming to have all pupils doing moderate exercise, there will still be 15% not even participating in two hours of school sport by 2008 (Online 14th March 2005). This is an area that health improving schools are aiming to tackle. Eileen Marchant, the General Secretary of the British Association of Advisers and Lecturers in Physical Education, stated that “there has been so much emphasis on standards in the core subjects that many schools have been reluctant to allocate additional time to physical education” (Online 14th March 2005).

This stresses how schools fear that children will loose out academically therefore they decide not to allocate time for physical education. Pupils may be well educated but not when it comes to their health. Children need role models to look up to so everyone must pull together in resolving these issues. Health promoting schools are managing to cope so health improving schools should put their work into practice. As well as this, if everyone in schools were promoting a healthy atmosphere, the children would be inspired and pass their enthusiasm on to their parents leading to a healthier Scotland.

It is down to the schools to take action and make these changes regardless of any excuses. It is clear from all the facts above that the health improving schools address some key factors. Problems that occur from poor diet and the small changes that could transform children’s lives forever are fully explored. If health improving schools take simple actions then pupils will be engaged in a spectrum of positive life enhancing activities. Every child deserves the best possible start in life. No school should deprive a child of this.