Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 13:21 UK

Pupils 'rewarded with chocolate'

By Hannah Goff
BBC News education reporter

Three quarters of parents disapprove of sweets as rewards

Time was when pupils seeking special treatment from their teachers would bring an apple into class.

Now teachers wishing to lavish praise on their pupils are rewarding them with chocolates and sweets, according to a web survey of 2,581 parents.

Some 27% of parents polled on the Netmums website said teachers were giving their children sweets, and three quarters thought it was a bad idea

The School Food Trust said it would be better to use healthy food as a reward.

Junk food ban

Head teachers have been required to improve the quality of food in schools, with stringent guidelines for school meals.

They are also banned from selling fizzy drinks, sweets or salty snacks in vending machines.

A School Food Trust spokeswoman said: "Whilst we commend a teacher's desire to reward pupils for good behaviour, effort or academic performance, we are concerned about inconsistency of the healthy eating messages if a child is rewarded with sweets in the school environment."

Teachers could use many alternative methods to reward pupils which sent a better message, she said.

"We hope that teachers will work with us to encourage healthy eating throughout the whole school day," she added.

My boys only have sweets on rare occasions
Polled parent

One mother, polled my Netmums, said: "As a teacher and a mum, I know there are many more effective ways to get the best out of children, bribery never works long term, makes those who may miss out feel bad and sends the wrong message. Children need to learn to make good achievements for themselves."

Another said: "My boys only have sweets on rare occasions, and I would much prefer to be the one who chooses whether or not they have them. "

Netmums is encouraging parents to write to their schools to ask teachers not to hand out sweets in class.

Cathy Court, director of food and nutrition at Netmums, said: "Giving out sweets as rewards seems to be an issue that parents do feel strongly about, but until now it has not been brought to the attention of schools.

"Parents often feel they donít want to cause a fuss by complaining, but as so many parents are against it, head teachers and governors should be discussing this with their teachers."

In a supporting statement, the National Union of Teachers said it strongly supported the need for a "whole-school approach to healthy lifestyles".

It has issued guidance which advises teachers, support staff, governors, parents and pupils themselves all to be involved in ensuring healthy eating messages are promoted in all aspects of school life.

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