Healthy Schools Week

Why have a healthy schools week

The advantage of having a week is that it makes time for the health discussions that we normally don’t devote enough time for in the normal everyday school curriculum. It allows us to have those in depth conversations about health and lifestyle that would otherwise get left out. It also allows teachers to talk about healthy eating, physical education and healthy living at the same time, which allows children to make links and see how to live healthy all these areas are related. While every child matters and many other initiatives of the last ten years are taking a bit of a back seat now to the more traditional focus of schools. The healthy schools initiative is something that is still supported by the government and a worthwhile award that promotes the image of your school.

Talking about Healthy Eating.

Food a fact of Life is a great place to start. This website has a load of printable and interactive resources to create a healthy meal for all age levels. I didn’t take this lesson any further. But next time I’m thinking of getting the children to cook a healthy meal/ healthy lunch box, then write instructions of how to create their meal. Armed with their healthy food background information I think this will provide a great way to extend their writing adding a tips and a clear introduction. Actually making a healthy meal will allow the children to gain a deeper understanding of healthy eating and consider whether their meal is appetising as well as healthy.

Healthy Exercise

A healthy schools week could be combined with the school sports day or plenty of separate activity


The healthy schools week is a great chance to link your numeracy with data handling. Asking questions such as which of these fruits or vegetables do you eat? How do you get to school? What is your favourite sport? Is a good place to start for lower key stage two. Upper key stage two children could plan an investigation around how far they can jump/throw. How their heart beat changes? Don’t forget that the ITP for Data Handling has a data set for the 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medals.

Visits and Competitions

The school I worked in had a learning bus provided by the county council, which provided information about the human body, making friends and healthy living. On the face of it, it did not provide anything that could not be provided by a well thought out lesson plan in school. But the act of going to a new and different learning environment (the back of a bus) made the activity much more engaging for the class. Other visits to consider would be timing healthy schools week witht the visit from a school nurse to talk about sexual health. Asking a member from a local sports team to visit the school run an activity and talk to the children. Many large sports clubs, such as the Leicester Tigers or Liverpool FC run their own educational units and employ specific teams or educators to work with schools. Another idea for a visit would be to got to a farm to find out where food is produced. Many farms that run educational trips have funding to run these trips for the next couple of years from Natural England. This has meant that these farms have invested in essential facilities like toilets and hand washing and the only cost for schools transportation. Farms for Schools has a list of some farms that offers visits. There are many other farms that offer visits that aren’t listed, so it is worth asking around the local area as often farms don’t have websites and advertise locally. FACE also has information about farm visits and has teamed up with industry to provide some good free resources that schools can request.

Lloyds TSB promotes a healthy sports week on the 25th June and provides resources for registered schools. Planning a healthy schools week ideas


Two stars and a wish is a popular method of feedback in my school, It has the advantage that everyone understands the system and it’s rightly weighted towards positive comments. But I have recently just listened to an episode of freakonomics radio, this got me thinking about whether I need to differentiate the amount of positive and negative comments that I give out. I’ve often thought that with some children I need to be frank, when their work just isn’t up to scratch and this is especially true of the more motivated children in my class. What this episode gave me was a scientific structure for thinking about when this is appropriate. When a child is not committed to a task they need to hear more positive comments than negative. I’ve often heard that 10 -1 is a good starting point. But if someone is already committed to a task, it pays off to give them greater negative feedback, this will have the greatest effect on getting them to improve. I think children always need to hear plenty of positives, but maybe I shouldn’t always flatly give out two stars and a wish. For a child unmotivated by writing maybe 3 stars would be more appropriate and for the child who loves writing, but is not producing quality maybe the ratio should be one star and two wishes. The episode that inspired this post can be found here.

Assessment Ideas

Here are Some Assessment Ideas that I hope to use in my class this year:

Application Card

After learning about an important theory children write down a real life application on a card. This encourages children to transfer their learning to the real world. I need to think about the big picture in my planning and link the work to the real world.

Group Brainstorming

Children assess their ideas in groups. Obviously I've used this a lot before I want to make it a more natural part of my lessons. One of the first things that I'v done is to create a mind map on our topic board, so that the children can see the learning about the topic grow.

Mid Lesson Post it

Children write down what they have learnt so far on a post it note. This should hopefully allow the children to be more reflective about their learning.

Gallery Walk

Children rotate around the classroom, composing answers to different questions at different points in the room as well as reflecting on answers given by other groups. Each chart or station has its own question that relate to an important class concept. The technique closes with an oral presentation or "report out" in which each group synthesises comments to a particular question. Think/Pair/ Share Think/Pair/Square Children think then work in a group of four at every stage peer assessing what each has said. Self Assess and Peer Asses SOLO

Post-It Feedback

In most schools their is an expectation of children knowing their targets and is it is certainly good classroom practice for children to know their next steps. But how do you make target setting a purposeful and useful exercise for children. Here is one idea of how you can make a short term target relevant to the children. Write the child's next step on a post it note. They can then move it onto the same page as their next Piece of work, until they have completed it. They they simply write a comment underneath the post-it to say why they don't need the target any more and they hand it back to the teacher. Practical targets


I have recently been thinking about 2009 (a little late I know) this was an unusual year for me as I spent 6 months working in a primary school in Malawi. I thought I would use my blog today to write about how this experience influenced some of my ideas about education in the world as a whole. I guess one of the main reasons why I am doing this is to dispel a myth I heard soon after I got back home. Soon after I got home I visited a primary school and one of the teachers naively said something to the effect of; 'It must be nice to teach children, that are really well behaved and want to learn.' I heard it many times before I left as well, that children in Africa are really well behaved and just want to learn. Like every myth I guess there is some truth in it, but it is also true that children are children and behave in similar ways across the globe.

Sports Day

Problems Facing Educators

Lack of resource

It was easy to be at this school and think about the lack of resources. Our resources consisted of blackboard, some flip chart paper and children had books and pens and a limited library. Then I visited a neighbouring primary school and realised that they didn't have any desks to sit at. This obviously presents serious challenges to teaching. But for me the biggest problem was that the few resources the school did have the teachers didn't always use to best effect.

Teacher's Skills

I don't want this to seem like I think African education is substandard because I really don't and it's amazing to see children triumph in the face of adversity. But one fact remains 'Rote Learning' is in, in Africa! That's how teachers teach and how children learn. The reason is that most primary school teachers are only educated up to secondary level, so they simply don't have in depth subject knowledge. As a result they can only teach things the way they were taught and children asking questions is frowned upon. The reason behind this is that teachers don't want to be shown up and be asked questions that they are not sure about the answer. The impact of this is that the failure rate is high and children either repeat grades continously until they turn into adults without reaching secondary school.

The gender Gap

A quick visit to the secondary school was revealing, you could count the girls on one hand in a class. Even in the primary school the higher the grade the less girls. This was really down to girls getting married or getting pregnant and dropping out of school. There is also a general bias against equality in Malawi which can hide under the veil of christian ethics. It's not uncommon to read about womens natural role in society in the national newspapers. I don't want to be another whiteman preaching to Africans as there has been enough of that already. I know many African women would argue the case that this is part of African culture for women and men to have very clearly defined roles. My only hope is that this doesn't stop everyone in Africa getting the education they deserve.

Climate Change

Deforestation has resulted in tornado's that blew the roof off the school the previous year. It also meant the school's football posts got stolen for firewood. It's a serious problem in Malawi with a logging industry and sixteen million people that all need wood to cook.


Absenteism particularly amongst girls who get pregnant as teenagers. The amount of girls in the secondary school was dramatically low. This is also caused by the transient nature of the refugee population. It was often common for children to be late after being held up by household chores.

Work On any given school day in Africa, if you go on a road trip you'll see lots of children not in school and selling snacks at the roadside. Primary education in most african countries is now free. But children still can't afford to go, they need to work. True this was less of a problem for me being in a refugee camp. Most school have a compromise that they finish early afternoon, so children have time to help their families, but many children are still being missed.

The Phala Issue

My school like some others in Africa had a food program and this is the reason why many children, who feel that they have no hope of suceeding in school still come. We gave each child a cup of porridge (phala) and it was the highlight of the day. Personally it was my least favourite part of the day. Why feeding 2000 children is a logistics nightmare and it often interupted lessons. It also didn't always happen. The phala was made by volunteers and to make it they also needed the flour and firewood, we normally had at least two of these neccesities in school, but there were many days when we didn't have all 3. Then you can really notice the differance in the childrens concentration, who are hungry, tired and feeling like they've missed out.

The quirks of African education


Children in Africa are tough and it's not suprising because they have such a tough upbringings. Caning children in Malawi is illegal and the school I worked at being funded by western organisations was very much opposed to violence. Having said that I think most children still get hit at some point. Many teachers still use such tactics in Malawi, but I think gradually it becoming less comon. But parents definantly don't have such qualms and it's not uncommon to see parents beating children in the street or elder siblings discplining their younger family members. Many children came from countries where caning wasn't illegal, so parents were suprised if their children had done something wrong at school and the teachers hadn't taken such actions.

The Good Points

The community One thing about Malawi it has to be probably the most friendly place i've ever been in my life. As well as this they still have the strong community strucures and neighbourly compassion that has almost withered away in Britian. One strange thing was that I taught many orphans, but there was no orphanage. I'm not sure whether this was a good or a basd thing, but it did mean that orphans looked after orphans and elders in the community looked out for the vulnerable.

My Old Class

The well behaved! Ok it's true there are many children in Africa that are really well behaved and they follow the international code of sitting on the front row. There are quite a few children that know that if they worked hard at school it will give them oppotunites and they will do there homework and have a phenomenal memory for learning their exercise books off by heart. This is obviously great, but they don't get the oppotunity to develop those wider skillls that are the sign of a well rounded education. I mean the ability to reason and way up the facts and analyse, those critical skills that we so value in the west. It's also really hard to teach these skills. I initially wanted to go into my first lesson and wow the children with creative ideas. But the children just don't get it and aren't used to it. I quickly learnt that like many things in Africa, you have to introduce and teach these skills, little by little.

The Red Tape

Malawi definetly has a curriculum and you do have to teach it. Schools get inspected and teachers do plan their lessons. Children sit assesment tests and get school reports at the end of term and parents can attend school open days to hear how their children have been doing. Sound familiar. Like other countries this sometimes aids good teaching and sometimes hinders it. Things do happen a little slower and this can cause problems. I was amazed to see that a few days before the end of term and school reports are given out they kind of give up teaching. I learnt why it takes a long time to work out the average score for 220 children in 2 different subjects without a spreadsheet.

Things that could easily be improved

I wish the schools would saxck the bad teachers. The majority of teachers I met were really commited and really good at their job. But their were a few bad teachers and a few that I would call corrupt. I did speak to a teacher from a neighbouring school, who was also on the exam board and offered to sell me the tests. If schools would sack the teachers that didn't bother to go to their lessons and teach or were not commited to children and I think African teachers would quickly get a good name.