New Healthy Schools model launched

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The new Healthy Schools enhancement model has been launched by the Minister of State for Public Health, Gillian Merron, following a keynote speech at the annual Healthy Schools national conference.

This new phase of Healthy Schools, the joint Department of Health (DH) and Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) initiative, will provide primary care trusts, local authorities and their schools with additional support in addressing the specific health and well-being needs of their children and young people, and will better equip children and young people to choose healthy behaviours.

During a keynote speech made at the Healthy Schools Conference, Minister of State for Public Health, 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.”

The new stage for Healthy Schools emphasises on-going change and development by encouraging schools to be better able to respond to the government’s health and well-being agenda within the school environment. Schools will be able to focus on additional school-based activities for improving health outcomes for specific children and young people such as young carers, those with mental health issues, or those experimenting with smoking or alcohol in particular year groups.

The launch of this new stage of Healthy Schools follows the programme’s success in achieving its challenging government target for ensuring that 75% of schools achieve National Healthy School Status by December 2009, over six months early. Enhancement will enable schools to continue to build upon their foundation as Healthy Schools and to use this to establish a baseline for future improved health and well-being in their school.

Today more than 99% of schools are now involved in the programme and 81% have already become Healthy Schools.  This is equivalent to around six million school-age children and young people attending a Healthy School. 

Richard Sangster, Head of the National Healthy Schools Programme said; “This year Healthy Schools is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Since its launch, the programme has played an important role in the many changes that have taken place in schools around school sports, healthy eating and the broadening of standards to include children and young people’s health and well-being.

“Part of the reason, I think, for the success of Healthy Schools is that its ethos sits at ease with the reason why teachers, headteachers, nurses, and the broader school workforce do what they do. People go into education because they care about children and young people and want them to succeed in their lives and that includes them being healthy.

“Although, we’ve achieved an enormous amount through the commitment of schools and health care professionals, long term behavioural change around key public health issues, such as obesity, is not something that can be done overnight - it’s a constant challenge and one in which schools will continue to play an increasingly important role.”

As part of this next stage of Healthy Schools, schools will be invited to develop a mixture of school-based, local and national priorities which will be flexibly tailored around the needs of each school community, in conjunction with Children’s and Young People’s Services, Primary Care Trusts, parents/carers and children and young people themselves.

Richard Sangster said, “In the future, schools will have a significant role to play in supporting children and young people make healthier life choices, but we’re certainly not asking teachers to become health specialists. Healthy Schools will have strong partnerships in place and are well placed to deliver aspects of health education within the school environment.”

Mr Sangster added, “One of the strengths of Healthy Schools is that shared visions and local partnerships have always been at the heart of Healthy Schools’ success - and in the future these partnerships will become more closely intertwined as we build upon existing good practice in schools to achieve real lasting impact in some of our major health challenges such as childhood obesity and teenage pregnancy.

“These partnerships are also vital between schools to get the mix of services and resources right. We are therefore encouraging enhanced Healthy Schools to work more in clusters so local priorities can be met and resources can be shared with similar programmes like extended services. Healthy Schools now and in the future will not work if this partnership, shared vision and support through the Children’s Trust, PCT and Local Authority is not achieved - because it is this partnership and shared understanding that all institutions and agencies play their part - which in the end will make the difference.”

The new Healthy Schools enhancement model is closely aligned with the government’s child health strategy, Healthy lives, brighter futures (DH DCSF, 2009) and the Children’s Plan (DCSF, 2007). It is intended to enable schools to address new health and education policy developments. It will also provide schools with rigorous health and well-being evidence for new school improvement plans, the Ofsted Self Evaluation Form and will support the proposed pupil level well-being indicators and school report card. 

“Healthy Schools has come a long, long way since its beginning, but really it’s just the start of a longer journey to ensuring a truly integrated approach to education and health in schools, which will draw upon the expertise of teachers, health professionals, parents and the wider community,” Richard Sangster said.

“We want to continue to work with our local programmes and partners to create school environments where every child and young person has easy access to all of the health and education support they need to reach their full potential in learning and life, and provide the mechanism to translate the Government’s vision of the 21st Century School System into a reality.”

For more information about Healthy Schools and the enhancement model, please visit: www.