NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) has welcomed government attempts to highlight the importance of good nutrition but warned that recommendations on provision of meals and cookery lessons require the right support.
Commenting on the Department for Education’s School Food Plan, Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said the link between good nutrition and good learning was well-established and school leaders would be happy to add their weight to recommendations promoting healthy eating.
However, Mr Hobby added that he feared any suggestions that schools should be responsible for their pupils’ diet could be a burden on their overstretched resources. And he also said attention must be paid to the practical implications of moving towards greater emphasis on supplying cooked meals and cookery lessons on school premises.
Mr Hobby said: “It is hard for students to concentrate on learning when they haven't eaten enough or when they've eaten the wrong things. The benefits from investing in decent cooked meals are huge: better learning and better habits later in life; a calm and sociable lunch hall also sets a tone for the rest of the day. In addition, increasing numbers of schools are growing part of their own food, and this can have a big impact on the children.
“There are barriers of cost and facilities, of course. Not all schools have kitchens, staff will need the right training to ensure their skills and cooking facilities are up to date and safe, and many schools will need to consider how they can seat and feed a thousand or more students a day. Nonetheless, they are all keen to do as much as possible.
“The main concern is the ever growing list of responsibilities and accountabilities on top of the core business of raising academic achievement. It is hard to be head teacher, head coach, head of finance and head chef (to list some recent additions to the list) all at the same time and still do a good job on all of them. Advice and guidance, tips from other schools and recognition of the extraordinarily diverse range of school contexts will all help this succeed. Getting this right can help with many of those other jobs at the same time. “
The School Food Plan is available on the Department for Education website www.education.gov.uk or here www.schoolfoodplan.com
Page Published: 12/07/2013