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Healthier grades for boys put on the menu

Raising academic achievement among boys and in deprived communities is to be the new focus of the Government's healthy-school initiative. The National Healthy School Standard programme, a partnership between the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health, aims to encourage emotional and physical well-being among pupils and staff in schools. It has promoted issues such as healthy eating and community responsibility.

The initiative now enters a second phase. At a conference in London this week, senior members of the programme's team announced that they would focus on schools in more deprived communities: those where more than 20 per cent of pupils receive free school meals.

The Office for Standards in Education has found that deprived schools involved in the NHSS programme showed significant improvements in results, attendance and behaviour. These schools, said Marilyn Toft, NHSS co-ordinator, will now be encouraged to work at a more intensive level.

"They need experts to come in and work alongside staff. With a mixture of money, resources and skill, we can help them find a methodical way of working," she said.

The NHSS will also address the consistent under-achievement of boys at all stages of education. It has launched a new booklet providing guidelines for schools on how best to meet the needs of male pupils. Gary Wilson, co-ordinator for raising boys' achievement for Kirklees council and author of the booklet, said: "We need to get rid of the anti-social, anti-academic, misogynistic boy culture that is endemic in most schools."

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