Healthy Schools Guidance
The information contained in this section, is to enable schools to become 'healthy' and 'extended', within one framework , and is distilled from the guidance provided by the Health Promotion Agency's 'Health Promoting Schools'
The background to health promoting schools in Northern Ireland is available here
What is a healthy school?
A healthy school is one in which the Board of Governors, staff, members of the wider community, and relevant agencies work together in a planned way to promote and protect the health of everyone in the school community, by developing policies, practices and structures that will underpin a sustainable programme of action.
A healthy school adopts a process of self-evaluation and action planning against a set of internationally recognised and tested quality criteria which aim to improve school health and wellbeing in relation to three key elements of work in the following areas:
- Ethos and environment
- Quality of learning and teaching
- Quality of management
The principles of a healthy school were declared at the first conference of the European Network of Health Promoting Schools.
The school represents an ideal setting for health promotion. As part of the community the school is a place where many people live, learn and work. It is a place where health programmes and education can have their greatest impact as they reach people at influential stages of their lives: childhood and adolescence. Central to this is the importance of investing in a healthy schools.
As educators, parents, policymakers, and concerned community members, we can advance both education and health by creating healthy schools. We can contribute to the child's whole development. People sometimes think of education as the accumulation of facts and basic skills. They sometimes think of health as the opposite of illness. But education and health are broader, richer concepts - and they are inseparably linked. Education is about learning. It is about the ability to combine knowledge, attitudes and skills to shape one's life and contribute to the lives of others. Throughout the world, a higher level of education often allows people to have better jobs, lead healthier lives, and contributes to family and community wellbeing.
Why is the school an important setting to improve health?
According to the WHO (1994) a setting is ' ..a place or social context in which people engage in daily activities in which environments, organisational and personal factors interact to affect health and well being.'
By recognising the school as an important setting for health promotion ensures that health can be addressed across all sectors and disciplines. It recognises that health lies beyond the health service, that health is influenced by many ecological factors and that each setting lies within another setting. It encourages a whole school approach, which addresses the many ecological factors that influence an individual's health.
By use a whole school approch, all members of the school community work together in a planned way to promote the health of everyone. This approach encourages integration and the development of connections; connections between people within the school community; connections between issues within the school community; connections between components of the whole school environment and connections between other settings. By recognising the interconnectedness between the different parts of the school system and people within the school system ensures synergy and a culture that fosters a whole school approach.
Schools are therefore key settings in which to improve both health and educational achievement. Good health and effective learning go hand in hand, with schools having the potential to play an active part in shaping attitudes to health. Central to this is the importance of investing in a healthy school. This is one that focuses on both the organisation and the taught curriculum by adopting a whole school approach. It brings together and promotes all aspects of health, whilst giving schools flexibility to focus on particular local needs.
Why do you need to think about a school being healthy?
- Good health supports successful learning. We know that healthy children learn well. If young people are healthy, they can take full advantage of every opportunity to learn.
We also know that a child's ability to attend school is affected by health. Health and health-related conditions, for example illness among children and their families, or fear of violence or abuse en route to school or at school, can reduce attendance, thus reducing the value of investments in education. If health supports learning, making school a healthy place becomes an objective of all schools.
- Successful learning supports health. Schools can make it possible for children and adolescents to gain the knowledge, attitudes, values and skills they need to be healthy and to avoid important health problems. The promotion of health can contribute to children's and adolescents' health now and in their lives as adults, enabling them to contribute to their communities now and in the future.
We know that there are too few safe places for children today. Many children live and suffer through physical, social or cultural conditions that jeopardise their physical safety, emotional health or security. For much of the day, a school can provide safety and security, if it is a healthy place, as well as a place of learning. The criteria for becoming a healthy school and the process involved can be viewed here. View these criterion in more detail and see indicators of good pratice.
Benefits of working towards a healthy school can be viewed here
Healthy Schools and the link to extended schools
Healthy Schools and Extended schools share the common aim of supporting children's health, safety and well-being. They also recognise that this aim can best be delivered through a process which involves pupils, staff, local communities and partner agencies and enables them to take ownership of plans and programmes. Extended schools have a key role in supporting schools to taking a holistic approach to the health and well-being of children and to work with families and communities to support improved learning, development and health and well-being outcomes.
Some common benefits of healthy schools/extended schools
- A healthy school/extended school can be seen as a resource for the local community and the community as a resource for the school. The added value of developing partnerships with parents and outside agencies; and providing opportunities for pupil participation, can enhance a school's standing in the community.
- A healthy school/extended school can help to raise pupil achievement and reduce health inequalities.
- A healthy school/extended school process will enable a school and its wider community to demonstrate a contribution to the various outcomes and targets for children and young people, set within the Investing for Health Strategy (2002) and related policies and priority documents.
- The Fit Futures: Focus on Food, Activity and Young People Report (2005), highlights, Creating Healthy Schools as one of its six strategic priorities for action, to tackle the underlying causes of overweight and obesity in children and young people. The Fit Futures vision encompassed both healthy schools ideals and the role of the school in providing extended activities for the school and its wider community.
- A healthy school/extended school will meet the requirements of The Education (School Development Plans) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005, which place a legal responsibility on the Board of Governors of a school to ensure that all their functions are detailed in a School Development Plan, and are carried out with a view to safeguarding and promoting the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.
- Extended Schools are one of the key themes of the Budget 2006-08 Children and Young People funding package . They will provide a range of services and activities often beyond the school day, to help meet the needs of children, their families and the wider community.
- Extended Schools focus on the themes that children and young people told the government were key to their wellbeing; and are central to strategy and planning for children and young people:
- to be healthy
- to be safe
- to enjoy and achieve
- to make a positive contribution
- to achieve economic wellbeing
- Adopting a healthy school approach will contribute significantly to addressing these themes and enable a school to identify, prioritise and implement extended activities for the wider school community.
- Working towards offering extended activities entirely supports a school in gaining healthy school status. Those schools that are working towards offering extended activities could also aim to develop into a healthy school at the same time.
Outdoor classroom - Queen Elizabeth Primary School
An outdoor classroom, a breath of fresh air!
The children, parents and staff in Pomeroy were agreed that their grounds needed some attention and their plan to rejuvenate the school’s outdoor environment would lead to untold opportunities for all to become involved and to learn.
Parents and staff agreed to give up some of their time over the Easter break to begin the process and so the tractors, trailers and people rolled in and work began. Parents offered and used resources, some grant-aided,some brought from home or donated by local merchants.
A new perimeter, wooden fence was constructed, paths were cleared and weeding commenced. The long stagnant pond was given a new lease of life, quickly occupied by frog spawn, insects, minibeasts and waterlilies. The learning environment was rapidly taking shape.
To compliment the work already done, the principal drew up a gardening action plan as part of the school’s extended programme. She plans that the children accompanied by a parent/carer will visit the local Garden Centre to buy ‘insect friendly’ plants and a variety of seeds to continue the outdoor transformation.
Principal, Iris Causey intends that the pupils will have a sense of ownership and pride in their grounds as they will all be involved in it’s development. She hopes that some of extra the flowers can be sold at their Summer Fair and these funds given to a Charity of the children’s choice.
The simple, quick growing vegetables, such as lettuce, will be grown in a portable greenhouse and used to make snacks which the children will enjoy. This will tie in nicely with the school’s Healthy Eating Programme and hopefully promote a future generation who are more aware of the value and goodness of home grown vegetables.
Iris Causey: “ I consider that this new development will contribute positively to the delivery of our “Revised Curriculum” and provide us with new teaching tools. This activity will motivate the children and the learning will be fun!”.
Health awareness at Holy Family Primary
Holy Family Primary School in north Belfast is an extended school with a strong community focus, working diligently to assess community needs and cater for them effectively.
To this end, the school planned and held a ‘Health Awareness Day' on 26 April. The event was opened by the chief medical officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride.
The school has formed an extensive network of partner agencies from Northern Ireland, many of whom set up stalls for the event, such as Barnardo's, Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-Harm, Belfast Institute, New Life Counselling and the Duncairn Healthy Living Centre. The Chest Heart and Stroke Association checked blood pressure and cholesterol levels on the day, aided by a doctor from the local medical practice and the school nurse.
Medicare Pharmacies, a local pharmacy group, sponsored the event and provided smoking cessation advice and support to all who inquired.
In the assembly hall an atmosphere of peace and relaxation prevailed as parents welcomed the opportunity to receive therapies such as head massage and acupuncture.
Principal, Mrs Dinah MacManus, was delighted with the response, saying: 'This affirms our efforts to think creatively of new ways to engage parents in the life of the school. In Holy Family, we believe that bringing the school into the community can only benefit the emotional health and well-being of children and ultimately improve their educational attainment.'
The school works hard to engage parents and the local community. In doing so, it hopes to be a hub for the community, connecting local people with local services and promoting the health and well-being of all. Ultimately, the school hopes to make a significant contribution to reducing social and health gaps and, in so doing, improve the quality of life for all children and their families.