Mayor launches new drive to make London schools more healthy

30 April 2013

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is launching a new initiative to promote healthy eating, physical activity and wellbeing in the capital's schools.

Funding worth £600,000 over three years is being given to develop Healthy Schools London, which will reach out to every London child and support schools' efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of their pupils.

Healthy Schools London will recognise schools that are doing good work to tackle a variety of issues affecting children and young people, including obesity and physical activity.

More than a third of London's 11 year olds are overweight and more than one in five are obese.

Figures published by the Government reveal that sedentary activities account for 3.4 hours of a child's day. Only 32% of boys and 24% of girls meet its physical activity guidelines and the most common form of competitive sport outside school for youngsters is at sports clubs - just over a quarter of 11-15 year olds belonging to one.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “I am delighted to support Healthy Schools London, which builds on the excellent efforts many of our schools are already doing to tackle obesity and get our young people more active. This is a voluntary scheme, but signing up means you will be part of a fabulous club, committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our youngsters. We know that when schools are healthy places to be, children are happier, their attendance and behaviour improves and they can achieve more.”

Healthy Schools London is voluntary and includes an awards scheme. Around 1,500 schools in 20 out of 32 boroughs (62%) currently undertake activity that could make them eligible for an award. The Mayor is calling on more schools across the capital to sign up.

Eligible activities include making the food available in school healthier and more tempting for pupils; educating children about food and where it comes from; getting them involved in food growing and cooking; allowing them to help out at school meal times; and encouraging inactive as well as active pupils to walk and cycle, as well as participate in PE and playground games.

It also includes increasing uptake of free school meals and tackling personal and social issues such as emotional wellbeing, anti-bullying and empowering pupils to make safe decisions about their health.

Deputy Mayor of London Victoria Borwick said: “Healthy Schools London is an important new scheme, which we hope schools across the capital will want to take up. It's entirely voluntary, but I have no doubt that most schools consider the development of their pupils in a holistic way, complementing their academic progress with their overall health and well-being. As well as issues such as obesity and physical activity being an important part of Healthy Schools is schools' efforts to encourage independence, build confidence and decision-making, as well as initiatives such as playground buddies.”

There are three levels of award, bronze, silver and gold. The aim is to have awarded 1,000 schools bronze status by spring 2014. Schools achieving this will then be eligible to aim for silver. More details can be found at www.healthyschoolslondon.org.uk.

Nutritionist Amanda Ursell is one of the speakers at the launch event taking place in City Hall today. She said: “Establishing healthy eating patterns when young can influence food preferences and health throughout life, which will in turn, go on to affect the health and wellbeing of our children's children. Children spend three quarters of their lives at school, which have a crucial role to play in promoting healthy eating. They can provide a rounded education on food, linking healthy eating across the curriculum so that children learn not only how to grow their own food in practice, for example in vegetable patches or pots and grow bags, but also in lessons, by discovering how food gets to their plate, and how what's in the food affects their growing bodies.”

Also speaking is Casey Stoney, London 2012 Team GB, captain of England Women's Football Team, who comments: “Being a Healthy School is a fantastic way of helping kids to get more active and to get to know what's going on locally around sport and physical activity. Sport can make a huge difference to kid's lives and their sense of wellbeing it certainly changed mine.”

- ENDS – 

Additional media

Notes to editors

  1. Healthy Schools London is one of several mayoral backed initiatives and programmes aimed at tackling obesity and improving health for people of all ages in London.

These include:

• Getting more Londoners cycling, including one billion pounds recently announced to boost cycling in the capital, including an east-west 'Crossrail for the bike', a new network of 'quietways' and works to improve safety at key junctions;

• The Sporting Legacy programme has resulted in £40 million being invested to upgrade local facilities and increase opportunities for Londoners across the capital to participate in sport and physical activity;

• The Takeaways Toolkit, which deals provides a framework for dealing with the proliferation of fast food shops;

• Public realm improvements large and small, from the Queen Elizabeth Park to pocket parks around the city, offering green spaces for formal and informal activity from walking to cycling to organised sport.

 

  1. Healthy Schools London (www.healthyschoolslondon.org.uk) will use a whole school approach to improve health and wellbeing, increase access to healthy food throughout the school day, provide opportunities to be more physically active, and aims to reduce childhood obesity. Healthy Schools London will provide awards for schools to recognise work that they are doing around health and wellbeing and childhood obesity linked to five key themes:

• Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHEE);

• Healthy Eating;

• Physical Activity;

• Emotional health and wellbeing;

• School environment.