Guest Blog: Even better if… The campaign to create a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme that’s fit for purpose

Guest Blog: Even better if… The campaign to create a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme that’s fit for purpose

In our latest guest blog, we hear from Jack Reynolds-Ryan, Policy Officer at School Food Matters, to find out how they are putting the long-awaited Healthy School Rating Scheme to the test…

School Food Matters (SFM) has campaigned for the introduction of a Healthy School Rating Scheme (HSRS) since it was first proposed as a method for evaluating how well schools support children to keep themselves healthy, in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Childhood Obesity Plan.

After speaking to parents, school staff and governors to get their views of a HSRS, in March this year we released a report demonstrating broad support:

  • 97% of people surveyed were in favour
  • When asked if the scheme should be mandatory, 85% of respondents agreed
  • 93% were 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.

You can read the full report here.

In July the Department for Education (DfE) finally launched the scheme as a ‘beta phase’. However, we have learned the HSRS consists of a set of new questions that have been added to the existing Active Lives – Children and Young People survey; which is administered by Sports England, and their affiliate ‘Active Partners’ in each region.

We are now in the process of coordinating a ‘test’ of the HSRS with schools across London, Manchester, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, and York, with assistance from our campaign partners: Food Foundation, Children’s Food Campaign, Food for Life, and Chefs in Schools. We will be providing feedback and suggested improvements to DfE in early 2020; however, early reports suggest the scheme is not yet fit for purpose. Our concerns about the scheme are around the time and effort it takes for schools to participate, the lack of focus on healthy eating at school, and the turn-around time for results.

At this stage, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is the complicated method by which schools ‘opt in’ to the new scheme. This varies from region to region, with each Active Partner having its own process. There is also a long ‘lag time’ built into the scheme: schools that managed to opt in before 11th October will have until late December to complete the Active Lives survey, and will not receive their rating under the HSRS until February or March 2020.

There is clearly some way to go before the Healthy Schools Rating Scheme is ready for full roll-out. But over the coming months we will be encouraging DfE to convene a working group to make sure we learn the lessons from this beta test, and then work closely with schools and parents to help knock the scheme into shape.

School Food Matters has been nominated for a Charity Film Award for our Schools to Market film, which shows how the programme brings together children from local schools to experience the joy of growing, harvesting and cooking with fresh fruit and veg; as well as developing enterprise skills and raising funds for their school’s food education programmes. Please vote for us here before 1st December.

And if you want to learn more about School Food Matters just sign up here!

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