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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Water bottles call for schools
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online education staff

water
Pupils should have access to drinking water, says the minister
Schools are being encouraged to make sure that pupils have easy access to drinking water during the day.

Schools Minister Stephen Twigg has set out a more co-ordinated strategy to encourage a healthier diet for pupils.

Instead of crisps and fizzy drinks, which could cause obesity, the minister wants pupils to have healthier choices.

And he said there were studies into how lunch boxes and school tuck shops could be made to offer better nutrition and less junk food.

As part of a "more strategic approach" to improving school children's diets, Mr Twigg said that there was a project examining the place of drinking water in schools.

Fizzy drinks

"Having easier access to drinking water throughout the school day is very important. Certainly in the United States it is pretty standard to have your bottle of water with you," said the minister.

Chips
Pupils are to be encouraged to develop a healthier lifestyle

But he said that many "schools now don't have the water fountain facilities we all had when we were at school".

Many primary schools in Britain have begun giving pupils drinking water bottles, which are available on their desks during lessons.

This follows concerns that pupils were becoming dehydrated and this was affecting their ability to learn.

When playground water fountains are not working, the only other source of water for pupils is often washbasins in toilets - and health campaigners have warned that in practice pupils can spend many hours without drinking.

But the minister also said that head teachers had different views on water in school, whether in bottles or drinking fountains, and that there had been concerns about misbehaviour and water fights.

Mr Twigg also pointed to the importance of having healthy options as an affordable choice.

Although not proposing a ban on the sale of fizzy drinks in school, he said he had received complaints that in vending machines it could be cheaper to buy fizzy drinks than water or fruit juice.

In the United States, a number of large school authorities have banned the sale of fizzy drinks, because of fears over obesity problems.

Obesity

In Britain, one in seven children aged 15 are obese, and among six year olds, about one in 12 are obese.

Stephen Twigg
Stephen Twigg promises a more co-ordinated strategy for healthy schools

Mr Twigg said he was in favour of working in partnership with drink and snack manufacturers.

Promoting the Healthy Eating Blueprint, which will be given to schools later this year, Mr Twigg highlighted the scheme in Hull which will give a free school meal to all primary pupils.

The 1.95m scheme is being piloted in 15 primary schools until the end of July - and will then be rolled to all of Hull's 80 primary schools.

This type of project, encouraged to make sure all young children have access to a proper meal each day, could be replicated elsewhere, said the minister, but a national version would be too expensive.

In inner-city areas many schools also offer "breakfast clubs", which make sure that pupils will have had a meal before they begin the school day.

Schools have become increasingly involved in feeding the body as well as feeding the mind.

Many primary school children have been receiving a piece of free fruit every day for several years, in a scheme which could have far-reaching impacts on their health in adulthood.

Those children living in the inner-city areas where the fruit in schools scheme was first piloted will now be reaching the end of their infant years, having had a piece of fresh fruit each day since nursery school.

Research into the impact of this project is expected to be published later this year.

"At school, giving children a good diet can have a positive impact on all aspects of their education. They have more energy, they find it easier to concentrate, and it can help boost standards," said Mr Twigg.




SEE ALSO:
Free school meals plan approved
09 Mar 04  |  Humber
Pupils promised free school meals
13 Feb 04  |  Education
Tough line on school fizzy drinks
09 Feb 04  |  Education
Coke may can school adverts
20 Nov 03  |  Education
New York schools to ban sweet sales
30 Jun 03  |  Education
Too thirsty for knowledge
08 Oct 02  |  Education


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