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Why Food Education Should Involve Everyone

March 25, 2019, 10:24 GMT+1
Read in 4 minutes
  • We look at how one East London primary sought to include parents and families in its efforts to improve pupils’ awareness of healthy eating and nutrition...
Why Food Education Should Involve Everyone

Holy Trinity Primary School is a two-form entry, voluntaryaided Church of England Primary School with a pre-school and nursery located in Hackney, East London. It’s one of eight schools belonging to the Primary Advantage Federation, overseen by executive head Sian Davies, with headteacher Yvonne Barnett leading Holy Trinity’s teaching and learning.

An average-sized primary with 279 pupils on roll, nearly half of Holy Trinity’s pupils receive Pupil Premium, just under 60% have English as an additional language and 20% of have special education needs and disabilities. Its last Ofsted inspection was in 2013 and saw the school rated as Outstanding, with inspectors noting pupils’ above average performance in maths and English by the end of KS2.

One of the school’s key ambitions has always been to try and build on pupils’ daily learning by offering them opportunities to develop their existing talents or try something new, whether it be a type of sport, a craft or indeed a life skill of some sort.

As part of these efforts to empower pupils, Barnett opted to introduce a new, more holistic approach to how the school promotes mealtimes for pupils and educates them about food.

The process began with consulting pupils, parents and carers, governors and external consultants on the school’s existing catering provision, before taking a closer look at the food education pupils received and considering ways in which they could be taught lifelong positive eating habits.

Consequently, there’s now a ‘healthy eating thread’ running throughout the school that begins with the ready availability of fresh fruit and water in nursery, and culminates in Year 6 lessons where pupils study a wide range of ingredients before learning how to create balanced meals.

Lunchtimes at Holy Trinity also saw major changes, and now resemble restaurant or family dining experiences. The adults and children eat lunch together seated at round tables, using proper cutlery and crockery, which has enabled informal interactions between staff and pupils and helped build trust and foster constructive relationships outside the classroom.

The parental engagement part of the process was introduced via parents’ evenings, which saw staff speak to parents of pupils who brought in packed lunches to ensure said parents were making informed choices. This was intended as a preventative, more consensual approach to avoiding the issues that might arise if the contents of pupils’ packed lunched were to be actively ‘policed.’

As Barnett explains, “Educating families as a whole is a key priority for us, and that starts with cooking healthy meals from scratch. We want to do more work with parents, and we have plans to bring small groups of parents in for cooking clubs and to visit certain places where they can learn more and spread that message to other parents. All of that has a positive knock-on effect for both the school and the community.”

The school is planning to further develop these efforts by inviting groups of three or four parents to spend some time in the school’s kitchen, where they’ll get to find out more about the physical and mental health benefits of healthier eating for young children.

“Eating healthier is vitally important because the by-product of a healthier, better educated primary school child is lower obesity, stronger family bonds, better eyesight, better teeth and attitudes towards alcohol and smoking, and much more,” concludes Barnett. “It has to start somewhere – and we think the best place to start is at school meal times.”

Schools can download a series of free, cross-curricular teaching resources as part of the Change4Life campaign; click here for more details.

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