Charities implore government to put school food on Ofsted menu

School children are leaving school obese, not being able to cook or know what good food is – stark claim you may think, but these are real concerns from leading food campaigners including Jamie Oliver, Food for Life and Children’s Food Campaign.
schoolchild holding a pod of peas.
Last week over 30 organisations, led by school food charity School Food Matters, are calling on Department for Education to act on its promise to prioritise children’s health and well-being by taking a look at how schools can support children to keep themselves healthy.
Government has committed to supporting schools to provide high quality school meals and food education through the proposed Healthy Schools Rating Scheme yet over two years after it was promised in 2016’s Childhood Obesity Plan, the scheme remains on DfE’s ‘to do’ list.
With campaign partners, including Garden Organic, School Food Matters has been pushing government to deliver on its promise to support schools to monitor and manage school meals and food education. As part of its campaign, the charity surveyed nearly 1000 parents, governors and teachers to find out what they thought of the proposed Healthy Schools Rating Scheme and how it should be implemented.
Stephanie Wood, founder of School Food Matters said today: “Quite simply, we conducted this survey to tell us what we, as school food campaigners, already know; that the Healthy Schools Rating Scheme is needed to help schools keep good food on the menu.”
A primary and secondary school parent who responded to the survey said: “It needs to be mandatory across all schools in order to have a valuable impact. Children deserve a level playing field when it comes to health, and the only way to help to ensure that is through a robust mandatory scheme that applies to all schools. Also, the Prime Minister has committed to reducing childhood obesity and ill health, so the scheme needs to be mandatory.”
  • 97% of people surveyed are in favour of a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme (HSRS)
  • When asked if the scheme should be mandatory, 85% of respondents agreed.
  • 93% are in favour of the HSRS being applied to all state funded schools.
  • When asked if Ofsted should monitor the scheme, 72% of all people surveyed, and 76% of parents, agreed.
  • School food hit the headlines in 2005 with the Jamie Oliver TV exposé, and successive governments have invested in initiatives such as universal infant free school meals, compulsory cookery classes, mandatory school food standards and the School Food Plan. Fast forward to 2019 and we hear that for many children, their free school meal is their only meal, with schools having to support families with food parcels[1] and free breakfasts, so it is more important than ever for school meals to be nutritious and tasty.
Stephanie Wood added “With children spending 190 days at school we have a unique opportunity to model good eating habits and teach them how to keep themselves healthy. Department for Education must act now and use the Healthy Schools Rating Scheme, together with the new Ofsted framework, to make sure we’re making the most of this opportunity.”
With less than two weeks to go before Ofsted closes its consultation on the new inspection framework[2] the report’s authors and supporters are urging schools, parents, governors and food charities to use the consultation to push Government to deliver on its promise of a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme.
Here at Garden Organic we support a healthy schools rating scheme because it will provide a framework for schools to focus on children's learning in relation to healthy eating and an active lifestyle. "We know that teaching children about organic growing contributes to an understanding of where food comes from," Commented Colette Bond, Head of Education at Garden Organic. Through our many organic food growing projects in schools we've seen first hand that if children grow fruit and veg they are more likely to want to eat it."