Editor's comment

18th January 2008 at 00:00
In the beginning, there was the "national conversation" on the future governance of Scotland. Now, there is to be a "national discussion" on food, including teaching children how to cook and eat nutritiously. No doubt, the HMIE report on the Hungry for Success programme (p3) will, as it were, feed into the discussion. Although the number of initiatives to correct poor diet and unhealthy eating is becoming almost indigestible, there is now almost a palpable sense of urgency about it.

The inspectorate's report reflects that, as does its title Further Food for Thought. It is realistic enough to acknowledge that schools cannot do it all, which will come as a relief to teachers who do not always welcome admonitions from HMIE. Graham Donaldson, the senior chief inspector, is surely right to call on parents, shopkeepers, supermarkets, food manufacturers and even politicians to do their bit. The national discussion paper, Choosing the Right Ingredients, sends out the same message.

The dilemma for schools, which is confirmed in the depressing picture emerging from the secondary sector, is the same as the one facing the curriculum at large - choice versus compulsion. The very fact HMIE is suggesting that pupils' choice of food may have to be limited to improve their nutritional health is symptomatic of this - and of the sense of urgency referred to earlier.

We have no option but to redouble our efforts in the hope that educating people to make the right choices will remove the need to contemplate compulsion. But we should not shy away from compulsion if all else fails, including keeping youngsters in school at meal times if necessary. Time is not on our side, as figures from Inverclyde show: 55 per cent of 15-year-olds in its schools could be facing death before they reach 65 - not so much startling, as heart-stopping.

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