Last year, inspectors visited 60 schools around the country to understand whether schools are having a demonstrable impact on levels of childhood obesity. While it was found that most have responded positively to government initiatives, it was not clear that specific interventions by schools could, in isolation, overcome other factors that affect the weight of their pupils.
The report states that schools should focus on improving things that they are best placed to do, including planning a challenging and well-sequenced curriculum which covers learning about the body and about healthy eating, providing opportunities for physical exercise, teaching skills such as cooking and dancing and updating parents on their children's physical development.
Responding to the Ofsted report ‘Obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools’, Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Promotion at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
“Ofsted are correct in saying that schools alone are not a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to tackling childhood obesity. A variety of measures need to be implemented and at all levels in order to see improvements. However, it cannot be ignored that schools are well placed to impart knowledge from an early age. Evidence-based and professionally delivered Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) which explores healthy lifestyles, exercise and wellbeing is an effective way to do that. This information will enable children to make informed decisions about their health that will influence the rest of their lives.
"However, there are a number of environmental factors that impact children every day, and the onus cannot fall to schools alone. Children are being bombarded with fast food outlets and junk food advertising, and we know that this impacts the amount of food high in fat, salt and sugar that they go on to consume. They are also met with numerous fast food restaurants near the school gates offering unhealthy food at pocket money prices. In order to protect children from the harms of obesity, we want to see a ban on advertising for foods high in fat, salt and sugar before 9pm on television and for all on-demand services and would support local authorities in their efforts to restrict the opening of new fast food outlets in close proximity to schools.”