'Healthy schools' rating scheme finally published - nearly 2 years late

The government has finally published details of its “healthy schools” rating scheme – almost two years late.

Schools are being encouraged to take part in the voluntary scheme by completing a survey that covers four areas: food education, school food standards, time spent on physical education and active travel.

Schools will then receive a report based on their answers, with the highest-scorers getting a gold, silver or bronze award.

However, the ratings will not be shared publicly.

The “healthy schools” plan was first proposed as part of the government’s child obesity action plan in 2016, and was supposed to be up and running by September 2017.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is among those who have critical of the slow progress. He also recommended the rating scheme be made mandatory.

The scheme was originally proposed only for primary schools, but has now been opened up to secondaries too.

The original proposal was to “actively involve parents in the ratings process”, but the only reference to parents in the final scheme appears to be about sharing results with them.

The new scheme states schools can notify Ofsted inspectors about their rating, which they may wish to consider as evidence when reaching a judgment on ‘personal development’.

This appears to be a climb down on the previous plans, which stated that the new rating scheme would be referred to in the school inspection handbook.

It comes as Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman told the Observer newspaper yesterday that pupils’ wellbeing was at risk as sports was squeezed out the curriculum. She called on the government to do more to increase sport in schools.

A thematic review of obesity in schools by Ofsted found it was “not clear that the specific interventions that schools make could, by themselves, overcome other factors that affect the weight of their pupils”.

Instead, the report stated schools should focus on the things they are best placed to do: teaching pupils about the body, nutrition and cooking through the curriculum, providing opportunities for physical exercise, teaching children how to cook, and updating parents on children’s physical development.

Paul Evans, vice chair of the British Obesity Society and the managing director of education consultancy School Health UK, said: “Not least has it taken 24 months to finally confirm what – at the time – was branded a ground-breaking development in childhood obesity, but it now means that instead of Ofsted exploring it amongst personal development behaviour and welfare considerations, schools can notify Ofsted – if they like.

“It is the children’s equivalent of a child telling a teacher that he’s done some extra homework he wasn’t asked to do, in the hope of getting an extra sticker. Waste of everyone’s time. Pointless.”