Brain gain for healthy pupils

Mens sana in corpore sano says the ancient adage - and now British schools are proving that it is true.

A government campaign to create healthier bodies is also helping to create healthier minds. The "Healthy Schools" drive has produced better behaviour and standards of class work, a study by the Office for Standards in Education suggests.

The campaign encourages schools to tackle issues such as sex and drugs education, good diet and even fire safety. The OFSTED review found that schools involved are improving faster than average in key areas of their work, including management and support of pupils.

OFSTED also found that personal, social and health education was better at schools involved in the programme.

A separate investigation by the Scottish Council for Research in Education discovered that, in the 8,000 schools most intensively involved, the biggest benefits came at key stage 2.

Colin Noble, a national adviser to Healthy Schools, said: "I would expect to see more progress immediately in smaller schools, which are generally primary schools, because it is easier to have that 'whole school' effect."

Schools involved in the campaign are encouraged to form partnerships with outside bodies to promote good health. They might, for example, invite youth workers in to run sessions on relationships. They climb a ladder of "healthy schools standards" recognising their progress.

Brenda Bigland, head of Lent Rise primary in Slough, said she had got Berkshire fire and rescue services involved with the school through the scheme. "Teachers can not be experts in everything," she said. "If you can reach out to other professionals, you can educate the child to make healthy choices for the future.

"A healthy child is a higher-achieving child."

Details of the Healthy Schools drive are at www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk healint.html

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