One in five children enter school overweight or obese, increasing to one in three when they leave school at Year 6. What’s going on?
Over the last three years we have been working with two schools in Sheffield to find out.
Our project involves measuring children every year to see if we can pick up any patterns with an aim of changing this upward trend. Children spend approximately a quarter of their life in school, so they’re are a great place to promote, encourage and build good health and wellbeing. Leeds Beckett University have been helping us to find out if this whole school approach is beneficial.
The two schools involved are from the same area; with one ‘working as usual’ and the second working together with SHINE to become healthier. Here are some of the things we’ve delivered together so far –
- Improved breakfast clubs by providing age related food portions and by reducing sugary cereals.
- Increased availability and range of healthy snacks.
- Encouraged teachers to avoid rewarding achievements with sweets and chocolate.
- Increased the level of physical activity through walking buses, running a mile a day, offering ‘stay and play’ sessions for children and their parents and teaching curriculum subjects through physical activity.
We’ve also trained up four SHINE Healthy Weight Leaders (teachers and classroom assistants) to have the appropriate knowledge and skills to talk with parents about the weight of children, and to do so in a sensitive and confident manner without judgement or stigma. Lastly, we’ve helped children who have experienced weight gain by offering family-based support.
The results so far suggest that the programme is working. In both schools, we’ve seen that rates of obesity have not increased. But in the school that is having additional support from SHINE, it looks like the programme is really helping to support the children in maintaining a healthy weight. We have noticed though that some children would benefit from additional support from SHINE, and this is what we will be looking to offer as we enter our third year.
Accepting additional support isn’t easy and we do face some initial resistance from parents. That’s normal though as children’s health and wellbeing is seen as a personal matter. Over the next year we’ll be focussing on building relationships so that our input will be viewed as helpful rather than intrusive.