Healthy eating in schools: supplementary guidance

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

Section 5

Parents as partners

Food is an emotive issue for many parents of children with additional support needs, particularly for those whose children have a very limited or restricted diet. The school therefore has the capacity to support parents to ensure good work happening in school can be continued at home. Equally, parents know their child best and may be able to help staff by advising what works best in the home environment. This can help to ensure that children and young people have stability and routine. Here are some suggested activities which can support parents to learn about and improve the nutrition of the whole family:

  • inviting parents to participate in home economics lessons.
  • providing workshops or displays at parents nights and invite partner agencies to support these.
  • holding cooking classes for parents.
  • involve parents in homework activities related to healthy food and drinks.
  • send the recipes of dishes cooked in school home to parents.
  • work with a local community project to set up and run a fruit and vegetable shop as an enterprise project to increase access to affordable fresh produce.

Case Study Example: Family nights - Hillside School, Cumnock

Fortnightly family nights were started through consultation and then identification of certain gaps from a parental point of view. These nights provided access to sport and leisure activities within the community, further education courses, opportunities for whole families, siblings and parents to enjoy the activities together. These cases involved the core issue of support for example support with moving and handling and care: support in regards to supporting the young people when parents were attending courses or the young people themselves who required the support in order to access club type activities such as sports, crafts and art. The introduction of the social nights enabled the coordination and contribution of integrated services support and the integration of finances in order to allow parents and pupils equal opportunities within their community.

Fortnightly parent/carer and pupil social nights enable parents and children and young people to jointly participate in sports, leisure, swimming, healthy eating and living programmes. For example, parents have completed a healthy eating and nutrition programme. The evenings are jointly planned by community sports coordinator, community links officer, education and parents, and run by community link officers and are linked to staff from the local health and leisure centres and a social community project namely The project has been funded and supported by Childcare Partnership Service, community sports coordinator and the Cumnock Learning Partnership. The role of the school in this project has helped parents feel more supported, heard and full partners in the planning and execution of structures that they feel are not readily available from the main frame of normal business.

Other examples of supporting parents can be found at or using the following links for inspiring video clips:

Partnerships with health professionals

In order for children with a special dietary requirement to meet their nutritional requirements and consume an appropriate diet, problems need to be identified and addressed. Collaboration with other health professionals, parents, carers and school staff is essential. Genuine participation of partners can provide highly effective support to schools. The skills, experience and expertise of, for example, particular health professionals including dietitians, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and catering colleagues, can complement those of school staff and parents in ensuring that both the individual nutritional needs of children and young people and the requirements of the Act and are being met. Some of these professionals may have a high profile and an active role within the school. It is essential that joint agency and partnership working is effective in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for children and young people.

Useful tips:

  • All partners must place the child at the centre in all decisions.
  • Schools should agree the level of involvement they can expect from partners.
  • All parties must be clear about the outcomes to be achieved and the specific roles, remits and responsibilities each has.
  • Systems of communication which allow effective sharing of information should be agreed by all partners and be regularly reviewed to ensure they work.

Further information on working with Allied Health Professionals can be found in the publication Guidance on partnership working between allied health professions and education 18 .

Case Study Example: Health and Wellbeing clinics - Hillside School

Health and Wellbeing clinics were established in Hillside School as an effective way to address complex issues with eating and drinking through different agencies working together. On a needs led basis, the speech and language therapist, dietitian, school nurse, carers, staff from the school and other disciplines set up a clinic for parents. The clinics benefit the child and the family through being offered locally, and healthcare professionals and school staff having the opportunity to discuss issues and parents are able to raise any issues and have their views and needs of their children taken into consideration. It helps to ensure feeding is safe, nutritionally adequate and enjoyable, and provides a forum for discussion and improved communication. Training issues are highlighted, and provision of food in school is reviewed as a result. The clinics have been received positively by both staff and parents. What was deduced from this project was the reduction in multiple involvement which led to direct coordination, less duplication of information and practice and greater integrated working. This meant a more time efficient structure and therefore a saving on the time required of the professionals involved.

A short movie highlighting effective partnership working around planning with partners for health and nutrition can be found using the following link:

Back to top