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Schools scheme gets health kick for its 10th birthday

The government’s flagship scheme to make healthy living an integral part of a child’s school life is to be expanded following a decade of success, Public Health Minister Gillian Merron announced today.

The move comes as the Healthy Schools programme celebrates its tenth anniversary, and has exceeded its target to get 75% of schools to achieve Healthy School status by December 2009.

  • To date, 80% of all English schools have achieved National Healthy School Status.
  • This equates to nearly six million children and young people in our country already benefiting from attending a Healthy School.
  • So far, 99.1% of schools are taking part.

The scheme teaches children about every aspect of being healthy from how you travel to school, exercise, school meals, obesity and anti-bullying.

Speaking at the annual Healthy Schools conference, Gillian Merron outlined how the National Healthy Schools Programme will be widened to include closer working with local authorities, health services and the wider community. Ultimately, it will enable schools to identify and help those children who need it most in the community, addressing specific local issues such as bullying, teenage pregnancy or drugs.

Gillian Merron said: “Ten years ago the idea of a water bottle on every child’s desk or giving children healthy snacks at play time wasn’t on the radar. Ten years ago, kids weren’t asked to come up with their own ideas to stay healthy.

“But that’s changed – children have more opportunity to control their own health now. I’m very glad to announce, as of today, eight out of ten schools are Healthy Schools. That’s six million children in England making healthier choices.

“Extending the programme means that schools will work more closely with local councils and the wider community, so that even more support is available. It will help schools spot those children who need more help – young carers, those with mental health needs, or simply giving children the information and resources they need to tackle issues such as bullying, obesity and drugs.”

To become a Healthy School, a school must have met set criteria across four core themes: healthy eating; physical activity; emotional health and wellbeing (including self-esteem and bullying); and personal, social and health education.

These themes affect all aspects of school life, in and out of the classroom and provide children and young people with the skills and knowledge to make improved life choices and to be healthy.

Department of Health