Ofsted's report requires improvement
Ofsted has published its report on what actions schools are taking to reduce childhood obesity, commissioned by Department for Education as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan
Ofsted's thematic review looked at obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in 60 primary schools. In the department's press release, Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman said “We must recognise that schools cannot provide a silver bullet for all societal ills ... Families, government, industry, and other parts of the public sector all have a role to play in making food and drink healthier, and supporting children to make better choices.” We agree. Obesity is everyone's problem but we see schools as a unique environment to positively influence children's choices around food and health and we must seize this opportunity.
We had hoped to find in the report a celebration of the schools that prioritise and establish a good food culture by taking a whole school approach. In fact the term 'whole school approach' does not appear anywhere in the report despite this approach being central to School Food Plan. Here's what we did find:
- Ofsted found 'no reason to believe that schools are not following the school food standards' but describes how many schools delegate the responsibility of compliance to contractors without asking for evidence.
- the report shows that children list chocolate, biscuits and cereal bars amongst the top four things most likely to be in their packed lunch and inspectors stated "Certainly, quite a few packed lunches had a biscuit, a chocolate bar or a piece of cake." and that packed lunches were most likely to include a packet of crisps.
- the report highlighted the need, and desire from parents, for more cooking in schools.
- significantly, inspectors found that health initiatives in schools were having an impact, with parents reporting changes in children's choices at home as a result of healthy school activities, including children eating more fruit and vegetables.
You can read the full report here and we hope that schools will recognise the role they can play in the quest to halve childhood obesity by 2030. We would urge the Department for Education to use the proposed Healthy Rating Scheme to celebrate the schools that are leading the charge and encourage all schools to get stuck in.