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Wise words to the healthy

THE HEALTH PROMOTING SCHOOL. By Nick Boddington and Tim Hull. Forbes Publications. Pounds 12.95

Despite its uninspiring title, The Health Promoting School serves as a timely reminder of the significance of "health" six years after the National Curriculum Council's publication of Curriculum Guidance 5: Health Education, when the subject (beef notwithstanding) threatens to have fallen off the bottom of the educational agenda.

Teachers will be discouraged by this book from concocting tick lists and urged instead to determine aims and outcomes that will accord with the longer-term well-being of individuals and the community.

The authors remind us that every aspect of the effectiveness of a school can be bolstered by its attention to health-promoting influences upon young people.

They explore notions of health as it affects individuals and organisations, consider emotional and social well-being alongside physical health and predictably place self-esteem, the ability to cope with change and to exercise control over one's life at the forefront of their discussions.

Such ideas and explorations of "health" are not new, though here the contributions are culled from a wide variety of sources to bring concreteness and coherence to a term too often devalued as merely "a good thing".

Health education is the natural vehicle for drugs education and is central to the thrust of government strategy, Tackling Drugs Together. The authors helpfully underline the fact that behaviour change is a less than likely outcome when education is confined to the advice of "experts", pointing out that, somewhat paradoxically, "preventive" outcomes are more likely to be produced by methodologies that empower. Drug educators take note.

Probably the most valuable section of the book is its range of examples of "ways in" to addressing health issues, which are based on the authors' experiences in schools grappling with the process of review and development.

There is a plethora of instances of weaknesses identified and changes made but in vain I waited to discover how schools had coped with internal resistance to change. I wanted to read the frenzied dialogue from staff meetings where committed enthusiasts had battled with die-hard sceptics and won. Perhaps in the sequel . . .

Significant irritations in this rather dry volume include bullet point overload and lax editing which occasionally obscures meaning.

Nonetheless, readers looking for inspiration and ideas on how to place health at the cutting edge of school consciousness will be well rewarded.

Adrian King is health education organiser for Berkshire

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