Headlines: June 25th, 2010

A new report from Ofsted on food in schools shows that most pupils have a good understanding of what makes up a healthy diet. It also finds that in the majority of schools visited, food is attractive, nutritious and well prepared. Many schools have succeeded in increasing the take-up of free school meals by giving better advice and support to parents.

The schools visited adopted a variety of approaches to extending pupils’ understanding of nutritious food. These included healthy eating clubs to learn about the importance of a balanced diet. Good schools often also collaborated with local sports clubs to promote physical exercise.

Many schools worked hard to encourage greater take-up of meals. Successful initiatives included ‘meal deals’, schemes to book tables to celebrate special events, free meals for new pupils and ‘tasting’ events for friends and family.

School breakfast clubs enabled pupils from poorer families to eat before lessons which helped to improve their attention span and mood in class. An electronic, cashless system for lunches set out parents’ allowances more clearly and enabled them to pay more easily.

Some schools ran ‘themed’ days to give pupils practical experiences of handling and preparing food. Several gave children formative experiences working on local farms and allotments or with professional chefs that greatly increased their understanding.

The report also expressed concern that less thought has been given to providing advice to families whose incomes are low but who are not entitled to free school meals. Some of these parents have to budget carefully to pay for school meals. Families on lower incomes, with a lack of transport, may also be limited to a smaller range of cheap food that is available locally but not sufficiently healthy.