Ofsted: Tackling obesity in and out of the classroom

Andrew Cook, Ofsted Regional Director for the North West

School dinners have a bit of a bad reputation, and at times, not unfairly. I remember some shockers from my own school days, where the playground rhyme about ‘soggy semolina’ and ‘concrete chips’ (how did it go again?) wasn’t too far off the mark!

Thankfully, the picture is a lot better these days. School dinners have certainly improved, but schools are also taking seriously their responsibility to teach pupils about how to live healthily. And as you might have seen in the news, that’s something we highlighted in our recent report about childhood obesity.

Obesity is one of those issues that’s never far from the headlines, and rightly so. The problems it can cause later in life are well understood. Our report looks at what primary schools are doing to help address the problem.

As Regional Director, I see plenty of schools that are doing excellent work to reinforce messages about healthy living. These schools usually offer fantastic PE and lots of opportunities to get active, both in and outside of regular lessons.

But, our report highlights that schools can’t tackle the problem of childhood obesity alone. That’s not to say they don’t have an important role – after all, children spend an awful lot of their time at school. But there are just too many other factors that influence children outside the school gates.

At Ofsted, we think that schools should focus on their core purpose – educating children. Of course, that includes teaching them about healthy eating and physical fitness, as part of a broad curriculum. But it’s really important that parents and schools are working together.

Parents told us that they aren’t always getting enough information from schools about what their child is learning about healthy living, or indeed about what they’re eating.

If you have concerns about what your child’s school is doing in this area, or perhaps just want to be reassured about what they’re enjoying eating for their lunch each day, do get in touch with them.

And as we head into a new school year, Ofsted will continue to focus on what schools are doing to provide the best, richest curriculum possible.