Ofsted has launched a flawed report on obesity and healthy eating in schools today. The Soil Association along with others on the advisory panel (including School Food Plan Alliance and School Food Matters) have asked for their names to be removed from the report. The report is deeply confused, conducted on the basis of a flawed methodology, and at risk of undermining the vital role of schools in supporting children to eat well. It ignores advice from Public Health England and their own expert panel.Rob Percival of the Soil Association “Ofsted’s review of obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in schools has got it completely wrong. It was conducted on the basis of a flawed methodology and an inadequate understanding of behaviour change. In publishing this report, Ofsted has flagrantly disregarded the advice of its own expert advisory panel and risks undermining the vital efforts that schools are making to support children to eat well at a time when the Government is taking concerted action to tackle childhood obesity. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector should be placed in ‘special measures’.
“Of overriding concern is Ofsted’s disregard for the advice of its own expert advisory panel, which consistently advised that the focus of the review should be on the extent to which schools show leadership through a ‘whole school approach’ that supports pupils to adopt healthy behaviours. Ofsted appears to be actively discouraging a whole school approach to achieve healthy behaviour change and is urging schools instead to reduce their focus to classroom knowledge and skills alone. Behaviour change science shows that knowledge alone is not a sufficient driver for healthy behaviour. By contrast, a ‘whole school approach’ that makes schools ‘healthy zones’ has been robustly evaluated by the University of the West of England and shown to have a significant impact on healthy eating behaviours. Pupils in schools adopting such an approach via the Food for Life School Award are twice as likely to eat their five-a-day compared to children in matched comparison schools. Ofsted’s disregard for this evidence is absurd.
“The methodology adopted in this review is deeply flawed, and Ofsted knows it, because its own expert advisory panel told them as much. Despite the review purportedly focussing on ‘obesity, healthy eating and physical activity’, healthy eating outcomes such as fruit and vegetable consumption are explicitly disregarded – the only valid outcome is assumed to be a reduction in obesity levels. Public Health England advised Ofsted in clear terms that the methodology and sampling approach were not appropriate or adequate to support the inferences made on the contribution of schools’ activities to obesity levels. It is outrageous that Ofsted has published such a transparently biased report.
“Ofsted can and should play a positive role in supporting healthy eating in schools, including by promoting excellence in school leadership in relation to school food. The first chapter of the Obesity Plan committed Ofsted to taking account of the proposed healthy rating scheme for primary schools. We welcome this commitment and look forward to further clarification of Ofsted’s role in this regard.”
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