6 ways schools can help prevent childhood obesity

6 ways schools can help prevent childhood obesity

One in ten children are obese when they start primary school, but what can schools do to prevent it? PlayM8 takes a look at some of the ways schools can help to prevent child obesity.

Recent figures have revealed 10 per cent of children who start primary school at the age of 4 are obese, with many described as becoming 'fat for life'. Experts have warned that it is the start of a 'disastrous' trend and have called for more PE lessons at school.

For many years it has been widely recognised that health and education go hand in hand. Children who are properly nourished and allowed time to be active will be more able to concentrate better in lessons and remain focussed.

A key challenge for schools is making sure that health does not get squeezed out of the 'crowded' curriculum. Take a look below at 6 ways schools can play an effective part in preventing obesity in children.

1. Promote healthy eating

First and foremost, children must be educated in healthy eating so that they recognise the type of food that is good for their bodies. One way to help promote this is to build a school garden so that teachers can highlight to pupils the connection between home grown foods and how these foods are prepared for meals.

2. Focus on lunch menus

Healthy school meals need to be provided. The new government scheme offering a free school lunch to all primary children up to the age of 7 is a  good incentive for schools to have some control over the type of food pupils are eating. Making sure that school meals are packed with healthy foods and goodness is a great way to ensure children are receiving the right nutrients to really thrive.

3. High quality physical education

The government has set strict guidelines for the amount of exercise every primary school child should be receiving, but it is up to individual schools to ensure that this is carried out successfully. It is not enough to promote regular PE lessons, in order to get head, schools need to also be encouraging active playtimes and extra-curricular sport whenever possible.

4. Maintain regular contact with parents

Parents have the biggest influence on whether a child is obese or not, therefore schools need to sustain regular contact with families so that they can work closely with parents to overcome any issues a child may have. Consistency between school and home is essential to promoting healthy eating - it is not something that can just be learnt, constant reinforcement and role-modelling is  also necessary.

5. Promote the right messages

It's important for schools to continue to promote the right messages to pupils when it comes to healthy lifestyles. Schools that promote healthy eating but reward children with sweets may be sending out the wrong message, therefore the development of robust policies for food and physical activity are essential to enable schools to be consistent in their messages.

6. Changes to government policies

There are currently government limitations regarding how much schools can do to prevent obesity - it is not something that schools can manage or take responsibility for alone. Not only is a close working relationship with parents essential , expert support, guidance, resources, and a more flexible curriculum is vital so that schools have the freedom to dedicate more time to healthy eating and physical activity.