Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 16 Jul 2009

Iím the head of a primary school where pupils are getting fatter. What can I do? We already teach about diet and exercise.

Hillary's Advice

Iím afraid I believe you will have to turn yourself into a dictator. Tell staff and parents that you are going to get serious about health and fitness. Explain why. Allow them to contribute ideas but let nothing deflect you from your basic aim of making -- yes, making -- your children eat healthily and move around more.

Forget government guidelines. Two hours of PE a week will never do it. Sedentary children have to be forced to acquire the habit of daily fitness. Encourage walking to school, then start the school day with daily exercises for everyone, Chinese style, in the playground. Begin with five minutes and make it more. Tell your teachers to give their classes regular ďbrain breaksĒ where children jump up and move around, and train lunchtime supervisors to lead regular fitness sessions. Then bring in a range of after-school dancing and sports clubs, plus yoga or aerobics for staff.

Ban junk food, set guidelines for packed lunches, and do whatever you can to make your school meals heathlier than the basic regulations. Children who are used to the taste of fat, sugar and salt donít willingly embrace fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

Many people will hate you for this, and there will be all sorts of protests. Grit your teeth and remind everyone why you are doing this. Celebrate good progress at every turn and carry on teaching about health and fitness. It will take blood, sweat, tears and unpopularity, but you will see results.