Still no sign of the delayed ‘healthy schools’ rating scheme

More than half of school caterers said they had or were considering using more processed ingredients in school dinners due to cost and supply issues

The government still doesn’t know when proposals for a ‘healthy schools’ rating scheme will come to fruition, 10 months after it was supposed to start in primary schools.

The plan was first mooted in the government’s child obesity action plan in 2016, and it was supposed to be up and running in schools by last September.

But  details are still vague and ministers say delivery models for the scheme are still being tested.

Back in 2016, the government said it would “introduce a new voluntary healthy rating scheme for primary schools to recognise and encourage their contribution to preventing obesity by helping children to eat better and move more”.

Once the scheme was in place it said it would run an annual competition to “recognise schools with the most innovative and impactful projects”.

But in a response to a parliamentary written question on June 21, the children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted the government had only got as far as “working on testing delivery models” in order to “explore the most effective way to deliver the healthy schools rating scheme”.

“We will come forward with proposals shortly,” he wrote.

This is not the first time the government has dodged questions on the issue.

Last October, Schools Week asked what was happening with the scheme, but the Department for Education would only say that officials were reviewing evidence and feedback from stakeholder groups.

At the time, the Jamie Oliver Foundation was critical of the slow progress, 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,” the charity said.

The original plan was to mention the scheme in the school inspection handbook, and Ofsted inspectors were to be taking it into account “as an important source of evidence about the steps taken by the school to promote healthy eating and physical activity”.

The criteria would be “developed in consultation with schools and experts” and parents would be “actively involved”.

In 2017, Ofsted was to have undertaken a thematic review on obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools.

According to a speech made by chief inspector Amanda Spielman at the Bryanston Education Summit on June 6, the education watchdog has “carried out research to understand whether schools are having an impact on levels of childhood obesity” over the last few terms, and a report will be published “shortly”.

“Overall, it says there is limited evidence that school programmes or activities are translating into different pupil behaviours, choices or attitudes,” she said.

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