The results are in, and it doesn’t make for happy reading. An expert group including The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, Food Teachers Centre, British Nutrition Foundation and the University of Sheffield have now completed a commission to undertake a comprehensive review of food education and culture in England’s primary and secondary schools. Thanks to all of you that got involved, filled in surveys and took part.
Jamie Oliver believes that “Every kid in every school no matter their background,
deserves to learn the basics about food – where it comes from, how to cook it and how it affects their bodies. These life skills are as important as reading and writing, but they’ve been lost over the past few generations. We need to bring them back and bring up our kids to be street wise about food.”
Focusing on the curriculum, the whole school approach and behavioural change, the report highlights an alarming disparity in standards, overshadowing the success of the 2013 campaign for compulsory food education.
There’s a stark difference between schools doing a great job at delivering appropriate food education, and others struggling with a lack of time, resources and support. The report also highlights the unhealthy food environment at secondary schools which is in turn compromising pupils’ ability to make good food choices, and interestingly found that teachers, pupils and parents are all calling for a healthier school environment.
The report goes on to make four recommendations to counter these findings and ensure that children receive a better start in life:
- Schools should be healthy food zones
- More support should be given to the school workforce
- Improvements in food education qualifications and resources are needed
- Stronger reporting and evaluation needs to be in place
You can read the full report here:
Something that really struck a cord with me as a parent and a change professional was the opinion of Dr Caroline Hart from the University of Sheffield – she referenced the environment in schools and concerns about the ‘cake-culture’. I myself have been flabbergasted by the mixed messages around healthier lifestyles, as schools attempt to implement good practice, but unfortunately contradict themselves in their policies around unhealthy snacks, allowing treats for birthdays, and routinely supporting and enabling regular fundraising through the sale of junk food. It’s a tough one, as it’s always hard to change and move away from things which are ‘easy’.
Dr Hart wrote:
“For many primary schools, a major concern is the prolific sale of cakes, sweets, cookies
and crisps as part of fundraising efforts. In many secondary schools, a key issue is the
lack of healthy food offers that enable pupils to put their food education into practice.
Pupils told us that, when sugary drinks, super-sized cookies and ‘chip only’ options are
available, it made it hard for them to select healthier alternatives. The vast majority of
parents responding to our survey supported the reduction of unhealthy food offers in
We’re heading in the right direction as momentum builds and media coverage increases, but as a nation trying to overcome rising childhood obesity rates, there’s still a long way to go. I expect that big changes in government policy are on the way as a result (fingers crossed…).