Teaching staff should supervise tooth-brushing in London schools to stop children getting tooth decay, a report suggests.
The London Assembly Health Committee also called for the capital’s schools to become “sugar free” by 2022 by banning sugary items like biscuits and fizzy drinks.
According to the report, by the time children in London reach 5, more than a quarter are suffering from tooth decay.
The committee said that bad dental health was also “unfairly spread” around the city. For example, 14 per cent of five-year-olds had tooth decay in Bexley, but this rose to 40 per cent in Harrow.
Supervised tooth-brushing in schools
To address this, it recommends that “every school in London and every early years setting has a supervised brushing scheme”. The report says that this should be a condition for receiving Healthy Schools London and Healthy Early Years London awards – two schemes that are sponsored by the mayor of London.
“While the mayor does not have the power to directly fund supervised brushing, he can strongly encourage the take-up,” the report says. “We believe that supervised brushing schemes should be a mandatory part of the Healthy Schools London entry-level standard.”
A spokeswoman for the London Assembly told Tes that the brushing would be supervised by a “member of teaching staff” who had been “trained by specialists”.
She said decisions about how regularly the brushing would occur – whether daily or weekly – would be “up to schools”.
The committee has also called for schools to go sugar-free by 2022, and for this to be another condition of the Healthy Schools London award.
The report says: “Under current school food standards set by the Department for Education, schools are still allowed to serve desserts, cakes and biscuits at lunchtimes, and while an update to the standards has been promised, it has yet to materialise.
“While schools are legally allowed to serve some sugary items, numerous schools across the capital have voluntarily become sugar-free. Some have gone even further and serve water only, banning all carbonated drinks, regardless of sugar content.
“We think that the mayor can make a bold statement and try to encourage every single school in London to become sugar-free by 2022.”
Dr Onkar Sahota, chair of the health committee, said: “Research in recent years has told us just how dangerous excess sugar is in our diet.
“Tooth decay and diabetes are just some of the many negative outcomes if precautions are not taken.
“Schools are the centre of a child’s education, and a commitment to sugar-freedom would be revolutionary. Every child in London could have a sugar-free start in life – the health benefits would be enormous.
“The mayor has the clout to encourage families and schools to make sure London children see dentists as early as possible, are part of a supervised brushing scheme and keep sugar to a minimum.”