Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Scotland Act: Health promotion guidance for local authorities and schools

Guidance to support local authorities, schools and managers of grant-aided schools in working with partner agencies to ensure that all schools promote good health.

1. Introduction

1.1 Background

The central purpose of the Scottish Government is to focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.

The Government Economic Strategy sets out how the delivery of the government's Purpose is supported by five strategic objectives - to make Scotland wealthier & fairer, smarter, healthier, safer & stronger and greener. While health promotion is most strongly linked to the healthier objective, it can contribute to all five strategic objectives.

Within the Government Economic Strategy, five strategic priorities have been identified as being critical to economic growth. These are learning, skills and wellbeing; a supportive business environment; infrastructure development and place; effective government; and equity. The contribution of health promotion is most readily identifiable through the learning, skills and wellbeing strand, and will be an important contributor to achieving equity.

The concordat between the Government and COSLA and the development of Single Outcome Agreements has established a new relationship between central and local government. This is a relationship based on mutual respect and partnership. The Scottish Government will set the direction of national policy and the over-arching outcomes while freeing up local authorities and their partners to meet the varying local needs and circumstances across Scotland. One of the fifteen national outcomes set out in the concordat is that 'we will live longer, healthier lives'.

Similarly, under the concordat, local authorities must fulfil their statutory obligations with respect to health promotion in schools, but should develop their health promotion and health improvement strategies based on local priorities and needs.

The provisions of the Act complement the vision of Getting It Right for Every Child . There are also clear links with the provisions of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004. The ten standards for personal support set out in Happy, Safe and Achieving Their Potential (2005) also complement the vision of the health promoting school, and provide concrete examples of action that can be taken to support children and young people in this context. These are relevant to all children and young people, but are especially significant for those who are looked after or who face any kind of difficulty.

The key policy surround in education is A Curriculum for Excellence , and in particular the draft experiences and outcomes in health and wellbeing and the associated paper Health and wellbeing for all which should be read in conjunction with this guidance. A whole-school approach to improving the health and wellbeing of all pupils, staff and the wider community is illustrated in The Journey to Excellence , parts 1-3 ( HMIE 2007) and The Health Promoting School ( HMIE 2004). A holistic approach will impact on all aspects of school life and benefit all who learn and work in schools. Such an approach will provide a supportive environment for those who experience barriers to learning, including children and young people from disadvantaged home and social backgrounds.

In Scotland, mortality rates for key diseases and overall life expectancy are improving. However, the inequalities between the most deprived and least deprived communities are still evident and are increasing. Therefore, it is a priority of the Scottish Government to tackle inequalities. A particular focus of this is to reduce inequalities in education, to prioritise targeted early years intervention with vulnerable families and children, such as those who are looked after, and to encourage partnership working. We want to share information and experience in improving the health outcomes for young people, particularly those most vulnerable to poor outcomes.

We must encourage pupils to go significantly beyond merely acquiring knowledge and understanding into actively promoting their own health and wellbeing throughout their lives. This approach is evident in ' Building the Curriculum 1' which emphasises the centrality of health and wellbeing to a child's learning and, for example, indicates that schools should provide planned opportunities for pupils to develop life skills, including skills for independent living.

" Mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of young people are essential preconditions for successful learning. These qualities cannot be developed for individuals in isolation from the health and wellbeing of the school community as a whole." ( The Journey to Excellence , HMIe 2006)

The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 ('the Act') builds on work that has already taken place in Scottish Schools and ensures that health promotion will have a central and continuing focus in education. This is statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government under section 2A(4) of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000 [as inserted into that Act by section 1 of the Act].

1.2 Purpose of the Act

In summary, the Act:

  • imposes duties on the Scottish Ministers, education authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to endeavour to ensure that public schools and grant-aided schools are health-promoting. (this guidance relates to this duty.)
  • places duties on education authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to ensure that all food and drink provided in schools complies with nutritional requirements specified by Scottish Ministers in regulations;
  • places a duty on education authorities to have regard to the nutritional requirements regulations when purchasing a place at an independent school;
  • gives education authorities the power to provide pupils with snacks, either free of charge or subject to a charge;
  • places a duty on education authorities to promote school lunches and, in particular, free school lunches;
  • places a duty on education authorities to take steps to protect the identity of those receiving free school lunches; and
  • places a duty on education authorities and managers of grant-aided schools to have regard to any guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers on the application of the principles of sustainable development when providing food or drink or catering services in schools.

A copy of the Act and Explanatory Notes can be found on the website of the Office of the Public Sector Information at

1.3 Purpose of this guidance

This guidance has been devised to support local authorities and schools, and managers of grant-aided schools, in working with partner agencies to meet the duty to ensure that all schools are health promoting. The guidance provides signposting to the policy framework that is already in place. Separate guidance will be issued relating to the other duties. We will explore options for supporting health promotion across the early years sector.

While this guidance is aimed at local authorities and their schools, and managers of grant-aided schools, it will be of interest to all partners involved in aspects of health promotion for the benefit of children and young people. Partnership working with pupils, parents, health, social work and the voluntary sector has become the hallmark of health promoting schools.

1.4 The role of health promoting schools

As defined in the Act, "a school or hostel is 'health promoting' if it provides (whether

on its own or in conjunction with Health Boards, parents or any other person) activities, and an environment and facilities which promote the physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of pupils in attendance at the school or residing in the hostel."

Health promoting schools adopt a whole-school approach to integrating health promotion into every aspect of school life. Through effective partnership working with pupils, all teachers and other staff, parents and the wider community, the health promoting school:

  • promotes the mental, emotional, social and physical health and wellbeing of all children and young people; and
  • works with partners to identify and meet the health needs of the whole school and its wider community.

In a health promoting school all staff are involved in developing a supportive environment that encourages health promotion. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education's ( HMIE) guide for schools, How good is our school? The Journey to Excellence, Excellence Dimension 9 ( 'Dimension 9: promotes well-being and respect'), highlights the importance of promoting health in helping a school achieve excellence. It emphasises the need for schools to:

  • promote positive relationships within a caring and inclusive school community;
  • provide the whole school community with positive experiences that promote and protect their health; and
  • promote positive and healthy attitudes and behaviour.

1.5 The role of local authorities and managers of grant-aided schools

The Act amends the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000 to require that local authorities include health promotion in their improvement objectives. School development plans are also required to reflect these improvement objectives.

The duty within the Act to ensure that schools and hostels are health promoting falls to the local authority. As set out in the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc. Act 2000, the local authority's role is both to support and to challenge schools. The local authority must set out the health promotion improvement objectives and the strategic direction. The authority may choose to continue to use a local accreditation scheme or to adopt other accreditation processes. There is value in such recognition for the achievement of health promoting status while continuing to ensure the mainstreaming of health promotion.

Managers of grant-aided schools have the same responsibilities as local authorities.

1.6 The role of health boards

National Health Service ( NHS) boards manage local NHS resources to improve the health and wellbeing of the populations they serve. They are key partners in the development and implementation of the Act. The Boards engage in Community Planning with local authority Education Department/Children's Services partners to take forward health promotion in all schools in the Board area. To assist local authorities, Health Boards should ensure that:

  • the requirements of the Act are reflected in NHS strategies and plans;
  • specialist health promotion and nutrition advice is given to Education /Children's Services staff responsible for implementing the Act, and for monitoring and evaluating its implementation;
  • NHS health promotion, nutrition, public health and community nursing expertise is engaged in the planning and delivery of health promotion and nutrition activities in schools;
  • services for children and young people with chronic health needs reflect the Act; and
  • NHS staff support schools in assessing progress towards objectives for health promotion and nutrition in their school development plans.



The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House

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