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Health awards flexing muscles

A pioneering award scheme for health promotion in North and South Lanarkshire schools could be extended nationwide.

The Health Promoting School Awards Scheme, developed by both authorities and Lanarkshire Health Board, is a key element in Lanarkshire's plan to have all its 312 schools designated as health promoting schools by 2005, two years sooner than the Executive's national target of 2007.

The scheme has three levels, gold, silver and bronze, with different criteria to be met at each level. Awards are based on a portfolio of evidence assessed by the health board's health promotion department. Ninety schools, 30 per cent of the total, are registered with the scheme.

At the launch last week, Michael O'Neill, director of education for North Lanarkshire, told The TES Scotland that health promotion should have similar national status to eco-schools or charter mark schools.

Mr O'Neill, who chaired the executive's committee that produced the healthy eating policy document Hungry for Success, urged Ministers to give health-promoting schools recognition by way of a national awards ceremony.

Maggi Allan, the director in South Lanarkshire, endorsed his view. Harvey Stalker, former chief inspector of schools and now director of the Executive's health promoting schools unit, commended the value of the Lanarkshire awards scheme because it gives schools a target.

"Both authorities understand that health promotion is a journey and a process but an award scheme does give schools recognisable targets and provides motivation," he said. "I know from my discussions with officers in the Executive that this is a matter which is under consideration."

In another initiative, the two authorities also have pooled resources to involve pupils in producing a pound;100,000 drugs awareness video package aimed at young people and parents.

David Craig, quality improvement officer in North Lanarkshire, underlined the importance of young people's involvement.

"It is abundantly clear that involving young people to support and advise their peers is an approach that is likely to see a high level of success," he said.

Ross McCallum from Hamilton Grammar, one of the pupils involved in producing the videos, said that allowing young people to take part makes the resource more valuable because "it is giving a voice to young people on drugs education, which normally comes down the line from adults."

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