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Healthy treats? – Headmaster’s Blog – 1 November 2017

November 1, 2017
Ballard Healthy treats at school

A treat or a health hazard?

Unhealthy treats in schools

Several newspapers last week carried the following report on ‘unhealthy treats at schools’:

Children are being offered unhealthy treats such as pizza and doughnuts as incentives in school, a study warns. The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation found 53% of secondary teachers polled, along with 26% of those working in primaries, said their school rewards include foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar. It says there is a culture of “fundraising, reward and celebration” that frequently involves such foods, which “is creating social and physical environments that contradict children’s food education.” The report also found unhealthy foods are still on sale in many schools – and youngsters are still choosing these options because they are often cheaper, and readily available.


There are clearly some obvious differences between these schools and Ballard including the fact that we provide all lunches and break time refreshments as part of the normal school provision (within the fees) and we don’t have a school tuck shop. Setting this aside, however, I would say we have a very healthy debate at present on this issue.

Ballard catering reports to school council

Recently a whole-school assembly challenged us to consider what we eat and drink at break times. This has led to the School Head Caterer giving a report to the School Council (our elected body of pupil Form representatives from Years 3 to 11). This was followed by the same presentation at the weekly Prefects’ meeting and then a whole-school survey to see what support there is to have more fruit at breaks and to eliminate biscuits. Even the teachers have been considering abandoning ‘coffee and cakes’, their fortnightly gathering of staff across all parts of the school, in favour of ‘coffee and carrots’!

Ballard Charity hurricane Irma flood

Putting charity at the heart of Ballard – cake sales include one of our fundraising opportunities

It is always good to have the norm challenged and even for uncomfortable truths to be uncovered (such as the potential harm we are doing to ourselves through excessive quantities of sugar). I am all in favour of a more fruit and vegetable fare in the morning and afternoon snack times but I do hope we won’t abandon treats entirely! Our charity cake sale in September, for example, raised over £1,000 for the Red Cross’s work in the Caribbean in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Several pupils have also managed to raise funds for the bi-annual Kenyan trip – and improve their baking skills – by selling homemade cakes and fudge after school. And then, of course, there is the sweet which goes with the prized Headmaster’s Token for outstanding work!

I have marked the passage of time already, however. This year’s Head boy/girl/deputies meet me weekly for a break-time discussion. No longer are chocolate biscuits the order of the day (eat your heart out former Prefects): we now have dried fruit as a choice!

And so while we shall continue to debate – and take action – on unhealthy choices at Ballard, I would also emphasise that there is a further ‘battle’ to be fought: encouraging more water drinking. To this end the PE department gave every child a free water bottle last year in an attempt to overcome a problem also highlighted in last week’s Press:

Children drink just a quarter of the amount of water they should during the school day, according to new research. Guidelines suggest five to eight year olds should have five glasses a day, but the average child is consuming less than two. The survey by Chilean Easy Peel Oranges found many parents blame schools, saying ‘water-only’ policies deter them drinking enough, while only four in 10 say their children are allowed to have water during class time. Eighteen per cent said they had sneaked juice and squash into their school water bottles.

Alastair Reid (the occasional sweet-taking Headmaster)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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