Primary Schools

OFSTED: Schools, Just Teach! Let Parents Fix Child Obesity

Young Boy Eating a Burger

According to a new report (click to read) schools accept too much responsibility for tackling childhood obesity. OFSTED chief, Amanda Spielman, says it’s not only unfair to expect a solution from educators, it’s unwise. She claims there’s scant evidence to support the efficacy of school based health interventions. The report has sparked a heated debate among health campaigners, who say it contradicts government advice.

In ‘Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action,' ministers say a united effort is needed to halve obesity figures by 2030.

Spielman, on the other hand, says accountability lies with parents. She implies the burden of reversing current obesity trends weighs too heavily on schools and teachers are distracted from ‘a core educational purpose.’

While it’s true schools have limited influence – chicken shops, fizzy drinks and fast food ads lurk beyond the gates – it’s reductive to treat child obesity as a purely extracurricular conundrum. It looks to assign blame without offering support or solution. The reality is, regardless of who’s at fault or where the problem originates, fixing it will take a village.

Spielman is right to expect families to bear responsibility. She’s short sighted to assume it’s always so easy.

With record numbers living in poverty, survival is the priority for many. More than ever before, teachers are acting as substitute parents and counsellors. They have become the proverbial ‘village’ that once helped to raise a child.

So, it doesn’t make sense to tell them to back off and focus on the curriculum. Lonely, poorly clothed, anxious, afraid, physically inept, obese children; they're more likely to fail academically. It’s what the whole child, whole school approach is built on – an understanding that success requires intellectual, emotional AND physical nurturing. 

There is much work to be done. In Britain, the state of child fitness and motor skills development has scarcely been poorer. But our ‘village’ can make a difference…if we accept that we’re stronger together.  

Food based charity Soil Association says:

"In publishing this report, OFSTED risks undermining the vital efforts schools are making to support children to eat well. A whole school approach that makes schools 'healthy zones' has been robustly evaluated and shown to have a significant impact on healthy eating behaviours. 

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector should be placed in special measures."