There is a vast amount of evidence which shows a direct relationship between health, diet and physical activity.
The early years are crucial for building positive health behaviour patterns that can carry into adulthood. Many contemporary diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes as well as certain cancers are linked to poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity.
Ghyll Royd School has acknowledged the importance of this evidence and utilised it to ensure that children have an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle.
The British Heart Foundation states that education for children around health is essential to combat one of our biggest killers, heart disease. Research also shows that school based initiatives around health are likely to have the biggest impact on children and their families. Practical lessons and classroom based learning all play a key role in understanding the importance of health.
Physical Activity at Ghyll Royd
Physical inactivity is a major contributor to death and disability. The current guidelines for children are to engage in moderate to vigorous intense physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours a day. There is also a strong move to encourage children to avoid being sedentary for prolonged periods of time. In general only around 25% of children are meeting these guidelines.
At Ghyll Royd students typically experience two physical education sessions, one gymnastics session and one swimming session a week. This means that on four days of the week all children experience at least one session of physical activity.
In addition there are three separate break-times in the school day in which children are encouraged to be active with a wide variety of equipment. The school has particular success with its extra-curricular sports clubs. The Friday morning running club attracts nearly half of the school. There are also circuit classes, football, and a number of different sports that many Ghyll Royd children take part in before and after school.
In Pre-School, outdoor learning and active play form the cornerstone of the curriculum. Every Wednesday children aged 2-5 are taken on a Welly Walk within the schools expansive grounds. Children play in the innovative outdoor space several times a day.
Nutrition at Ghyll Royd
A healthy diet can prevent disease from the moment a child is conceived. Nutrition plays a significant part in a child’s health both in the short and long term. Despite many fads and fallacies the medical and health professions are in agreement with some very basic facts based on substantive research:
- Fruit and vegetables should make up a large part of a daily diet
- Red meat and processed meat should be minimised
- Sugar should be minimised
- A healthy diet is one that incorporates a wide range of foods from all food groups.
- Children should eat portions that are appropriate for them.
- Eating together with family and peers forms an important element of a healthy diet.
- Meals should ideally be cooked from scratch using ‘real food’ ingredients.
- Snacks should be limited and based on ‘real’ food such as fruit or nuts.
- Water should be drunk at regular intervals throughout the day.
Adhering to these guidelines will ensure that children have consistent concentration and energy levels and strong immune systems. This will also set down a blueprint for disease prevention later in life. Following this advice will also minimise the risk of obesity, a growing problem in developed countries.
At Ghyll Royd all of these guidelines are incorporated into the meal planning and schedule. Meals are cooked on the premises using only fresh ingredients every day. All meals include a variety of vegetables. Meals are designed to include a wide range of foods and to encourage children to experience a diverse range of tastes. There is no processed meat available. Fruit and vegetables are often incorporated into the puddings. Portions are appropriate for children. Children are able to bring one healthy snack for morning break and fresh water is constantly available.
Importantly children all sit together and are strongly encouraged to show exemplary manners. Children are rewarded for this on a weekly basis. Research shows that this cultural experience is important for children. Not only in understanding the role of food and nutrition, but crucially to encourage enjoyment in food.