Healthy eating in schools: supplementary guidance

Additional guidance on diet and nutrition for children and young people with additional support needs.

Section 1

Why is this guidance needed?

It is well documented that good nutrition can improve health both now and in future years. We know from research 1,2 that children and young people in Scotland are not eating enough fruit and vegetables and eating too much food high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar 3 .

The term additional support needs is used to describe children and young people who need additional support with their education. For some children and young people, this additional support need may impact on their diet and nutritional intake. There is considerable evidence indicating that some individuals with additional support needs are more likely than those in the general population to have nutritional-related ill health. Evidence also suggests that the risk of nutritional deficiency in this group is less well recognised by support staff and professionals than when it occurs in the general population 4 . It is estimated that at least 50% of children and young people with additional support needs have at least one problem which places them at risk of nutritional deficiency 5 . The most frequently identified nutritional problems for some children and young people involve:

  • weight management
  • failure to thrive
  • constipation
  • feeding problems that may include difficulty managing normal foods and liquids; an unsafe swallow
  • gastro oesophageal reflux ( GOR)
  • selective eating, such as avoidance of certain tastes, textures or temperatures
  • inability to self feed
  • lifestyle choices

See page 45 for a description of these nutritional problems.

Failure to assess and treat these problems can result in nutritional deficiency, complications, increased hospital admissions and can impair quality of life 6 . It is therefore vitally important that all children and young people are provided with the best possible nutrition. The consequences of not doing so are too great.

Policy context

To achieve the Scottish Government's aim of a Healthier Scotland, the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 (the Act) 7 ensured that schools contribute to this aim by focusing on the importance of diet and health promotion. Under the Act, local authorities and managers of grant-aided schools have a duty to ensure that food and drink provided in schools comply with nutritional regulations as specified by Scottish Ministers. The ' Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulation 2008' (the Regulations) 8 were passed by Scottish Parliament in June 2008. The Regulations set high standards for all food and drink provided in Scottish education authority and grant aided schools. ' Healthy Eating in Schools: A guide to implementing the nutritional requirements for food and drink in schools (Scotland) Regulation 2008' 9 was published and distributed in September 2008 to assist schools in implementing the Regulations.

Aim of the guidance

This guidance aims to support schools in implementing the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008 for children and young people who have special dietary needs or issues to do with food and drink related to their additional support needs. It adopts an holistic approach to health and wellbeing by encouraging a health promoting environment for all. It includes support and practical guidance, recognising the challenges faced by staff i as a result of the complex and diverse range of eating and drinking difficulties of the children and young people in their care. The guidance aims to support schools to develop a positive healthy eating culture for the whole school community. It exemplifies the importance of partnership working with health professionals and parents by providing examples of effective practice. Finally, it offers signposts for further advice and guidance in this area.

Who is this guidance for?

The guidance is for nursery, primary, secondary and special schools who provide education for children and young people who have an additional support need affecting their diet and nutrition. It will benefit all those working with children and young people including: headteachers, school staff, health professionals such as speech and language therapists, dietitians, catering staff and providers, parents and carers.

This guidance covers children and young people aged 3-18, with the exception of the Regulations which apply to children and young people of primary and secondary age only. The Nutritional Guidance for Early Years 10 should be used for children of nursery age.

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