Jamie Oliver: Delayed 'healthy schools rating' should be compulsory

A voluntary rating system for healthy schools which the government has committed to rolling out in primary schools should be made compulsory, according to the influential television chef Jamie Oliver.

Last year, the Department for Health’s childhood obesity plan included a series of policies with implications for schools, including the a voluntary healthy rating system for primary schools to be taken into account by Ofsted.

“The criteria for the rating scheme will be developed in consultation with schools and experts but will cover the school’s approach as a whole,” it wrote.

Enquiries made by Schools Week last month revealed that work was still underway at the Department for Education, where officials were reviewing evidence and feedback from stakeholder groups.

Oliver, however, has today published a review into food education in the UK, which criticised the delay and recommended the rating scheme be made mandatory.

“A year on from the Child Obesity Plan’s publication, no real action in schools has taken place, with the only political discussion on school food being the proposed Conservative manifesto pledge to scrap universal infant free school meals and replace them with universal free breakfasts,” states the report, released by the Jamie Oliver Foundation.

Cash should also be set aside to design and build “cooking cubes”, small kits to help primary schools without teaching kitchens, so that more pupils can experience making meals, the report suggests.

The government originally set aside over £400 million for capital funding related to healthy schools, but this was sucked back into the overall schools budget after the general election, when Justine Greening announced it would be used instead to help fund general budget rises across all schools.

“This major report has studied all the data,” said Oliver. “We’ve spoken to everyone from headteachers, to food teachers, parents, school governors, and kids themselves. And we’ve proven the simple point that we need to help kids apply food knowledge in the real world, and we need to support our dedicated food teachers. We must stop giving our kids contradictory messages. Most of all, if we want healthy children, we need to make all schools healthy zones. Full stop.”