'We are the champions'

16th January 2004 at 00:00
Nathan Wiles, aged 10, simultaneously undermines the stereotype of the selfish child and highlights the effects of a successful water policy. "The best thing about it is that it's not only us children who benefit, but the teachers as well," he says.

Nathan is a school council member at Lynch Hill primary school in Slough, Berkshire. Last year he was involved in a successful project to make water constantly available to all 500 pupils.

"We chose Lynch Hill as it is a big school in a very deprived area," said Pip Collings, the public health dietician who organised the project. "If we could make a difference there, it would be worth doing."

The study was based around six children, who became "water champions". They decided the best way to promote the health message was to avoid the word "healthy" and concentrate on how much better children would feel. They also suggested making a video to promote the campaign to their friends, staff and parents.

The school installed a main drinks sink and took delivery of 1,00 0 free sports-top bottles from Thames Water. Each child has his or her own bottle, which class water monitors fill twice a day.

If the reaction of the school council is representative of all the pupils, the project has been a huge success. "No one has to disrupt a lesson if they are thirsty," says Nathan. "They can just reach out and take a sip, which makes it easier for teachers not to have to wait or repeat things."

His classmate Sophie Baird believes that the best benefit is not having to sit in class "hot, sweaty and thirsty" after playtime or PE. "It's so much easier to concentrate after some water," she says.

While Kenneth Nunnez, nine, believes that, thanks to the water, everyone survives the day better. "It just keeps us all energetic. We all feel less tired," he says.

At Lynch Hill, each teacher has decided how they want to manage the drinks.

Some let pupils keep the bottles on their desks, while others have set drinking times.

Lynn Tibby, a Year 6 teacher, agrees that the project has been a success.

"At the beginning, there were problems with the children wanting to drink all the time and then needing to go to the toilet," she says.

She confirms Nathan's view. "I can tell if I haven't drunk enough because I start getting headaches again. I do feel a lot better since the project started," she says.

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