D is for diet .... and disaster

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
It is so blindlingly obvious, we almost missed it. Teachers have for some time reported a sharp increase in the numbers of pupils with different forms of learning difficulties, whether specially diagnosed or not, and are trying to teach in classrooms where several pupils can have supportive adults alongside them. We have wondered about the increase in children within the autistic spectrum, and whether this might be related to childhood inoculations or simply to better diagnosis and recognition. We also wondered about special educational needs practice and we have changed that to additional support needs as the system creaked under the deluge of demands.

Now we are told this week by eminent researchers (page 1) that the causes of what they term "a catastrophe" are likely to lie in the chips and burgers, sweets and biscuits, colas and crisps we have been consuming for decades. Parents and grandparents have been swallowing the food industries' offerings without challenge and our basic human structures have been damaged. The most important organ - the brain - has been hit by the saturated fats, colourings, additives and chemicals promoted by the food industry. The nation has also lost the skills and knowledge required for healthy eating.

All this was predicted, we now learn, 35 years ago by a Scottish chemist.

Professor Michael Crawford was indeed a man with foresight. Peter Peacock, the Education Minister, was in the audience to hear the professor's excoriating condemnation of government policy on nutrition and home economics over the decades.

Mr Peacock will have been chastened by the evidence. Not only is he in charge of the laudable Hungry for Success programme, he is also responsible for ensuring the additional support needs of pupils are fairly met across the country. He now knows the two are closely related and will have to act further to improve pupils' diet - one factor he can control, at least while they are in school.

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