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WATER COOLER CULTURE IN THE CLASSROOM

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Fresh, chilled drinking water is now on tap for virtually all primary pupils and increasing numbers of secondary pu...
Fresh, chilled drinking water is now on tap for virtually all primary pupils and increasing numbers of secondary pupils also have access to water during the school day, according to the latest school meal statistics published today.

The figures show that free fresh fruit is on the menu for almost all primary 1 and 2 pupils. This health-improving measure is just one part of the Executive's Hungry for Success programme, which aims to improve children's health and encourage healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

School Meals in Scotland January 2005 shows that while overall school meal uptake has decreased slightly in the past year, some councils have recorded major increases.

Top performers include Dundee City Council, whose uptake in secondary school meals has increased by more than 10 per cent since 2004. Primary schools in Angus are also serving up more meals than last year.

Gillian Kynoch, the Scottish Executive's food and health co-ordinator, said:

'Encouraging young people to eat healthily is a challenge, but we are making significant progress. Access to fresh chilled water and free fruit, as well as improvements to school meals generally, are important steps in establishing good eating habits that will benefit children for the rest of their lives.

'Already in schools I see children losing their fear of the unknown and trying out the latest health-conscious options. The encouraging increases reported by some local authorities show that the changeover to healthier menus needn't put children off.'

Claire Alison, nutrition associate assessor with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education, has been monitoring the roll-out of Hungry for Success in primary schools across Scotland.

She said:

'There is real enthusiasm for making school meals better. Many schools are getting parents and children involved in this gradual process, encouraging pupils to think about what they want to eat and also backing this up with education about why they should change their diets.

'Where this is happening, children are not suspicious of the changes but in control of them. There is little doubt that this encourages them to tuck into their school lunch.'

The Executive has invested£63.5m over the three years to 2005-06 to allow councils to implement Hungry for Success, the recommendations of the expert panel on school meals. Primary and special schools were working to introduce new nutrient standards for school lunches by December 2004. For secondary schools, the deadline is the end of 2006.

Measures under the revitalised school meals service include:

* Free fruit for pupils in primary one and two

* New nutrient standards for school meals

* Larger portions of more nutritious food at no extra cost to families

* Fresh, chilled drinking water available free in school dining rooms and throughout the school day

* Improved facilities in dining halls

School Meals in Scotland January 2005 records the number of pupils taking school meals on one day in January.

SCHOOL MEALS IN SCOTLAND

This statistical publication notice provides results of the latest annual survey of school meals.

The information was collected in January 2005 from all publicly funded schools in Scotland. For the first time, the publication also includes information about local authority expenditure on meals.

The main findings for January 2005 are:

School meals (free or purchased)

Of those pupils present on the survey day, 47 per cent took a meal supplied by the school, a decrease from 49 per cent in 2004. The decrease was largest in the secondary sector. Local authorities have reported that some of the reduction was due to temporary factors, including initial responses to the implementation of new menus and teething problems with cashless transaction systems.

Free school meals

Nineteen per cent of pupils were known to be entitled to free school meals. This is approximately the same percentage as was reported in 2004. Seventeen per cent of all pupils were registered for free school meals.

Of those entitled, 67 per cent were present and took a free school meal on the survey day, a percentage which has been declining in recent years. This equates to 12 per cent of all pupils.

Thirty-three per cent of mainstream schools had an anonymised system for free school meals receipt, up from 26 per cent in 2004.

Healthy eating

Nearly every primary school gave free fresh fruit to P1 and P2 pupils, and 94 per cent of all schools had free fresh chilled water available to pupils and staff at all times, up from 78 per cent in 2004.

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