Schools: Obesity

Department for Education written question – answered on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to help improve the ability of schools to tackle childhood obesity.

Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Schools have an important role to play in helping equip children with the knowledge they need to make healthy choices for themselves and creating a healthy environment for children to learn and develop a lifelong habit of physical activity.

Many Department for Education policies, some of which are already being delivered, are expected to make a direct contribution to reducing the incidence of childhood obesity, such as the introduction of universal infant free school meals, the school food standards, the addition of food education in the national curriculum, and the primary physical education (PE) and sport premium. We are not complacent however, and recognise that there is more to do.

The doubled primary PE and sport premium provides £320 million per year to improve the quality and access to PE and sport for primary age pupils to develop healthy habits early. We have also invested significant funding in measures to increase cycling and walking to school.

Sport England supports our efforts to engage inactive children to take up sport and physical activity by investing in programmes like the School Games and Satellite Clubs. Sport England is also providing specialist training free of charge to teachers in every secondary school in England by 2020, which will help teachers better meet the needs of all children, irrespective of their level of sporting ability, and involve them in shaping the sporting opportunities that are on offer.

The School Food Standards provide the legislative framework to ensure schools provide children with healthy food and drink options and we are working with Public Health England to update the School Food Standards, focusing on reducing sugar consumption.

As part of the second chapter of the Childhood Obesity Plan we are investing up to £26 million in breakfast clubs. Breakfast clubs can contribute to improved attainment, attendance and overall health and ensure that more children benefit from a healthy start to their school day.

We have also established a £100 million healthy pupils capital fund to facilitate an improvement in children’s physical and mental health by increasing and improving access to and use of relevant facilities, such as kitchens, dining facilities, changing rooms and sports facilities.

From September 2015, Ofsted inspectors look at how provision supports pupils’ knowledge on how to keep themselves healthy, including through exercising and healthy eating and we welcome the new inspection framework which Ofsted is currently developing for September 2019. This will consider how schools build knowledge across the whole curriculum and support pupils’ personal development more broadly, including in relation to healthy behaviours.

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