Colin Noble explains how achieving national healthy school status supports the new ‘whole-child’ agenda.

The reverberations of Jamie’s School Dinners are still sending minor after-shocks through the education system but the cognoscenti are aware that major changes were afoot well before Jamie met Nora. The Children Act of November 2004 is gradually being implemented and one of its fundamental changes is to amend the systems by which children’s services are inspected at various levels, including schools.

 The new Ofsted school self evaluation framework requires schools, amongst other things, to show how they are contributing to the five national outcomes for children – first outlined in Every Child Matters in 2003. The inspectors will also be referring to the five national outcomes in their reports. All schools are required to complete a self evaluation form (SEF) annually. The SEF will be the most important document that inspectors will want to discuss with headteachers before they write their report.

Ofsted’s self evaluation form

For some schools – having adjusted to a diet of a prescribed national curriculum, SATs/GCSEs results, PANDAs and Ofsted inspection reports over the last few years – this new requirement may seem to introduce a significant and worrying new challenge. Suddenly, that well-known teacher coffee mug with its complaint/boast that teachers have to be social workers, family therapists, psychologists, police officers, bureaucrats, careers officers, leaders, managers fund raisers, etc, seems to have been treated with far too much seriousness by someone in Whitehall. Schools are not to be seen as mere exam factories, but the new ‘whole-child’ agenda seems to bring with it enormous expectations, and this unease is compounded by the knowledge that the government
wants all schools to be healthy schools and extended schools. Other schools will welcome the recognition that the new inspection regime brings to the work they have been pursuing for years – largely unrecognised, but secure in the belief that healthy, happy, valued and stimulated children are more likely to learn.

The public health white paper Choosing Health, November 2004, outlined a new national healthy school status (NHSS), comprised of the four themes of PSHE: healthy eating, physical activity, emotional health, wellbeing.

National Healthy School Programme

The Department of Health, which hosts the jointly funded National Healthy School Programme, has just published national criteria to support these themes, along with a national audit and evaluation tool.
The good news for schools is that gaining the new NHSS will be a significant indicator that they are making a contribution to at least four of the five national outcomes for children. A mapping exercise against the five outcomes shows that:

  • under Being Healthy NHSS means a school is contributing strongly to the five aims that make up the outcome (physical, emotional, sexual, and drug health and parental involvement)
  • under Staying Safe NHSS means that a school is contributing strongly to two of the five aims (safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation; safe from bullying and exploitation), contributing well to two more aims (safe from accidental injury and death and parents providing safe homes and stability), and partially to the aim of safety from anti-social behaviour in and out of school
  • under Enjoying and Achieving NHSS means a school is contributing strongly to four of the six aims (being ready for school, enjoying attending school, achieving personal and social development and enjoying recreation, and parents/carers and families supporting learning); contributing well to achieving stretching national educational targets at primary school; and partially to achieving stretching national educational targets at secondary school
  • under Making a Positive Contribution NHSS means a school is contributing strongly to four of the five aims (engaging in decision-making and supporting the community and environment, developing positive relationships and choosing not to bully and discriminate, developing self-confidence and successfully dealing with significant life changes and challenges, and parents/carers and families promoting positive behaviour); and partially to the aim of engaging in law-abiding and positive behaviour in and out of school
  • under Achieving Economic Wellbeing NHSS means that a school is contributing well to ensuring that children are ready for employment.

The National Healthy School Programme can only contribute to the five national outcomes. Schools need to employ other mechanisms and partners to help children achieve the outcomes. However, schools will find that the way in which the programme works – being solution-focused, encouraging participation, promoting social inclusion, working with others to maximise impact and above all using a well-segmented whole-school approach – is a very effective way of tackling many issues of school improvement. Holding national healthy school status will be a significant piece of evidence that the school is contributing to the national outcomes for children.

The white paper Choosing Health has established some demanding targets for the Healthy School Programme:

  • 50% of the maintained schools in England to have achieved healthy school status by December 2006
  • all schools to be working on the National Healthy School Programme by 2009
  • 16,400 schools are currently involved with the National Healthy School Programme via their local healthy schools programme.


Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier 2004 (White Paper Cm 6374)
Every Child Matters 2003 (Green Paper Cm 5860)
Children Act 2004 acts2004/20040031.htm
Ofsted school self evaluation framework
National Healthy School Programme

Colin Noble is national coordinator of the National Healthy School Programme, Dept of Health, Room 501a, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London SE1 6LH