How we did it

10th January 2003 at 00:00
New End primary school is a calmer place since pupils swapped crisps for carrots, says head Pam Fitzpatrick

We have raised the profile of personal, social and health education over the past year, and the children have talked about healthy eating. But they were bringing more and more crisps in for morning break. The result was not only an unhealthy diet, but alot of litter. They were also occasionally throwing their sandwiches away and eating just crisps, sweets or chocolate.

In September, we banned junk food. I wrote to parents saying crisps, fruit bars, sweets, and chocolate were no longer welcome, along with fizzy drinks and juices - anything other than water. This applied to break time and packed lunches. Then we waited for the backlash.

But we've had no complaints. Now the children compete over who's got the healthiest lunch. They are proud of what's in their sandwiches and they bring fresh vegetables - carrots, celery - and fruit. We had one crisp sandwich, which was ingenious.

The feedback from parents has been positive. And, amazingly, the school is calmer in the afternoon. We're in a five-storey building and my office is half-way up. When the pupils come in from the playground after lunch they are quieter and more orderly than they used to be because they're not eating junk. And they're not missing it. But it's impossible to say whether or not it's had any impact on their work. I've also banned bins, so there's no opportunity to chuck uneaten food away. The children have to take any leftovers home, so parents can see what the children are eating - or not.

We used to get pestered by wasps. The children spilled fruit juice in the playground and you'd have trails on the stairs, attracting the insects. That's gone. And there is no litter.

We've held healthy school weeks when we've talked about the need for exercise. And we're turning our outdoor loo into a bike shed because a lot of children want to cycle to school. So there's a high profile on health and exercise as well as healthy eating.

I did make one mistake. I went to do a duty in a classroom with a cup of tea, thinking nothing of it. A Year 6 pupil, who was pretty disgruntled, came storming over and gave me a speech about my drinking tea while they had to drink water.

Our staff are generally a healthy lot. They eat a lot of fruit and drink water so they're good role models. But we do drink tea and coffee when we need a few home comforts. I shall just have to remember not to walk around with my cup of tea in my hand.

Pam Fitzpatrick is head of New End primary school in the London borough of Camden. She was talking to Martin Whittaker

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