Within a decade, the National Healthy Schools Programme has established itself as one of the country’s most widely embraced non-statutory government initiatives in schools today.
The Programme has provided schools with support on a broad range of issues affecting the health and well-being of children and young people: from childhood obesity, healthy eating and being active, to teenage pregnancy, substance misuse and bullying.
New research projects commissioned by the National Programme aim to provide independent corroboration of the wealth of anecdotal information we have about Healthy Schools. Early findings tell us that NHSP is valued by and is making a difference within schools and crucially that gaining NHSS is associated with improved school performance.
Evidence of the positive impact of Healthy Schools nationally is reported in :
- Healthy Schools fits with schools' priorities – some schools felt they had a responsibility to promote physical and emotional health; they found that NHSP objectives were already an important part of the curriculum and ethos.
- Healthy Schools could be a powerful lever for change – some schools found the criteria useful to review current practices and drive through changes; some schools had already achieved many of the criteria and were using NHSP to support them to go further.
- Achieving NHSS or being close to it were both associated with higher Ofsted ratings of schools effectiveness.
- Lower total and unauthorised student absence rates were found in schools working towards NHSS.
- Higher levels of student participation in high quality PE were found in both primary and secondary schools working towards NHSS and in primary schools with NHSS.
- NHSP has been associated with improved learning among students, such as improved concentration and increased confidence.
This may explain why, in a 2008 survey, headteachers rated Healthy Schools as the most valuable initiative in education after Every Child Matters (Headspace, 2008).