Head of watchdog says teachers do not have ‘silver bullet’ to cure health problem.
Schools cannot provide a “silver bullet” to tackle childhood obesity and should not be expected to solve society’s wider problems, the chief inspector of Ofsted has warned.
Amanda Spielman said teachers were already stretched and should not be distracted from their primary role as educators. She said that while schools could help encourage healthy lifestyles and exercise as part of the curriculum, they could not address all aspects of the obesity problem.
Research by Ofsted at 60 primary schools found no pattern to suggest school-level interventions alone, such as having an on-site kitchen or staff member leading on obesity issues, could be linked to certain levels of obesity.
There were “too many factors beyond the school gate” for them to have a direct and measurable impact on children’s weight, said Ofsted’s report.
Spielman said schools had an important role to play in the fight against childhood obesity, by offering high-quality PE and emphasising healthy lifestyles.
But she added: “We must also recognise that schools cannot provide a silver bullet for all societal ills. Teachers and school leaders are already stretched; they should not be held responsible for an issue that requires concerted action across the board. Families, government, industry, and other parts of the public sector all have a role to play in making food and drink healthier, and supporting children to make better choices.”
The report comes just weeks after the government published the second chapter of its childhood obesity strategy, which called for a united effort to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
It was revealed this year that nearly twice as many children in year six were classed as severely obese as children in reception classes. Data showed that 22,646 (4%) of 556,452 children aged 10 and 11 were in the highest body mass index (BMI) category, nearly double the 14,787 (2%) of 629,359 children aged four and five.
The Local Government Association said this showed children were gaining weight at a drastic rate as they progressed through school.