Over the past four months, two primary schools in Cheshire West and Chester have been trialling a ‘milk or water only’ initiative to raise a healthy smile from pupils.
The initiative aims to help support the health of pupils by promoting drinking water and low-fat milk. Food Active, a northwest-based public health charity, is leading the trial, as part of their Give Up Loving Pop campaign, with support from Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Drinks that are high in sugar can be problematic for children’s health and their school readiness. Diets high in sugar lead to increased chances of experiencing tooth decay, obesity and, later in life, type 2 diabetes. In fact, every day in the UK there are 180 operations to remove children’s teeth due to tooth decay, at a significant cost to the NHS and to families .
As part of the initiative, drinks that have added sugar such as flavoured waters and fizzy drinks will no longer be allowed on school premises. This also includes fruit juices and smoothies, which may contain high levels of sugar despite often being advertised as healthy.
The good news is that switching choice of drinks to low-fat milk or water hydrates children without providing additional calories or risking harm to teeth. Furthermore, schools are an ideal setting to set a positive example of healthy behaviours and teach pupils about the importance of healthy hydration.
Last month, Shocklach Oviatt C of E Primary School was the first school to officially implement their milk or water only initiative using the toolkit developed by Food Active. Huntington Primary has also been working hard towards implementing the initiative and is currently working with the staff, children, parents and carers to make this happen.
Shocklach Oviatt C of E Primary School will now only offer low fat milk and water to their pupils. The initiative sits alongside others with a health angle, including packed lunches, school events and celebrations policies. Some immediate activities the school is doing as part of the initiative include:
- giving the children have hydration stickers as part of the launch and the children topping up their refillable GULP bottles throughout the day
- Key Stage 2 children taking the news to the parish council later this month to share.
- only offering milk and water at the school’s Queen’s Jubilee party this week, which is supported by Key Stage 2 pupils as they recognise the importance of taking care of their teeth and have helped to teach that to the younger children.
- delivering a wide range of GULP lessons to make the children more aware of other problems that excessive sugar can cause which they were not already familiar with, such as Type 2 Diabetes.
Cllr Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said, “As a council, we have a real focus on prevention. Supporting our children to form healthy habits when they are young gives them the best chance of a long and healthy life.
“Cutting down on sugary drinks is good for dental health and maintaining a healthy weight. There is even evidence to suggest that behaviour and educational attainment are improved, helping children to reach their full potential.
“Shocklach Primary School’s commitment to the health of their pupils should be applauded and I am looking forward to seeing other schools taking the same steps.”
Mrs Davies, Executive Headteacher at Shocklach Oviatt C of E Primary School said, “Here at Shocklach Oviatt C of E Primary we have already been promoting healthy drinks so this ‘Milk and Water Only’ initiative is the perfect next step for us.
“Our children love the chilled water we have in school, know the benefits of their drink choices and are developing habits for life that will provide long term benefits.”
Johanna Woodward, parent of a pupil at Shocklach Oviatt C of E Primary School and also a dentist, said, “This is fantastic news, and we will try to encourage other parents to support. From a dentist’s point of view this is music to our ears!”
The trial of the initiative will finish at the end of this academic year, with the resources available for all schools to access across the borough from September 2022 onwards.
For more details about the initiative, email [email protected]