Hail and MacHearty

29th August 1997 at 01:00
Judy Mackie reports on a new approach to health promotion in the north east and (below) sees how three schools are faring

Hearty breakfasts and brisk walks for all; talks on dental health, fire and traffic safety for the children, and a series of health awareness workshops for parents and staff, earned Marchburn Infant School, in Aberdeen, a Grampian Heart Campaign Silver Award earlier this year under the campaign's own Health Promoting School scheme.

The school's first health week in February was rounded off by a hilarious visit from larger-than-life Heart Campaign mascot, MacHearty, and raised a total of Pounds 2,000 which, among other healthy treats for the whole school, went towards fluorescent armbands, new gym equipment, a fruit and milk healthy tuckshop - which attracts a swarm of young customers every breaktime - and membership of the Health Promotions school fitness club Kids In Condition.

Headteacher Anne Wood and health co-ordinator Debby Philip have worked with colleagues and parents to give health a high priority throughout the school. Anne Wood says parents provided "an input on all aspects of health. We consider that our pupils are now very aware of healthy eating and the importance of looking after their bodies."

Living up to its healthy name, Applegrove Primary School, in Forres, Moray, has breathed new life into the anti-smoking message with a series of colourful projects involving pupils, staff and parents.

Primary 7 teacher and health education co-ordinator Sian Deane has, with the help of Health Promotions, organised a number of informal curricular activities which link in with formal lessons in the curriculum.

These have included visits by the ubiquitous MacHearty; talks by the GHC Smokebusters team, and organising discount swimming tickets at the local swimming pool, for all Smokebuster club members.

P6 and P7 pupils have also designed anti-smok-ing posters for the younger children .

"This has had benefits for motivation and encouraged a sense of responsibility. The senior pupils have also devised competitions to involve parents and the wider community," explains Sian.

Sian's innovative work with Applegrove will form part of the new smoking resource pack, which will be available to all schools in Grampian in 1998.

Mintlaw Academy, in Aberdeenshire, has had a health-promoting committee since 1995, instigated by PE teacher and health co-ordinator Alex Mair.

Alex, who began co-ordinating health studies in the mid-Eighties and has been involved in developing new guidelines for health education at regional authority level, saw that if health promotion was to succeed throughout the school an action plan would be required, and so he enlisted the support of teaching, canteen, janitorial and community education staff in setting up a committee.

"My first mistake was that we didn't include pupils! However, we put that right by recruiting two students from S5 and S6, but I think the number of pupils on the committee is an area that needs to be addressed. Every age should be represented" he explains.

The committee's main aim for 1995-96 was to raise health awareness throughout the school, and as Mintlaw had already gained the Grampian Heart Campaign Bronze and Silver Awards for being a health promoting school, and spurred on by the fact that it was an Olympic year, they decided to "go for Gold" by running a Health and Fitness event over three consecutive lunchtimes during the second term.

The event, an exhilarating programme featuring sporting activities, fitness testing, massage, beauty therapy, assertiveness workshops, self-defence classes and a range of healthy food and bodycare giveaways provided by local and national sponsors, was highly successful, and has led to many more initiatives. These include sending a petition to local MPs to ban tobacco advertising, the installation of a fruit juice vending machine, a pupil-manned health information point, a free piece of fruit with every canteen meal, and a regularly-updated Health Matters noticeboard.

"Our aims are to look at the key areas outlined by Harvey Stalker and to focus on various other initiatives such as a healthy tuck-shop, individual health awareness days, the Scotland's Health At Work Award Scheme (for staff), and another whole school, high-profile activity," says Alex.

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