A COMPLETE ban on children leaving their schools at lunch time could be introduced across South Yorkshire, to improve youngsters’ health.
Councils and primary care trusts in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley have vowed to continue to campaign for secondaries to adopt stay-on-site policies preventing pupils from snacking on junk food in their afternoon break.
While the vast majority of senior schools already follow the guidance, public health officials are keen to get the remaining few on board in the battle against childhood obesity.
The policies not only help to stop children snacking on junk food during the day, but also tackle issues such as smoking and anti-social behaviour.
Latest figures from the Public Health Observatory show an estimated 20.2 per cent of Sheffield’s 11 and 12-year-olds are obese. In Rotherham the figure is 21.6 per cent and in Barnsley 19.7 per cent - all above the national average of 19 per cent.
Valerie Holland, who leads on the stay-on-site policy at NHS Sheffield, said: “We work with all Sheffield schools on a daily basis and encourage the adoption of a stay-on-site policy to encourage all young people to stay in school at lunch time.
“Staying in school means students are more likely to have access to a healthier lunch and be able to engage in more physical activity.
“As studies show, it is not always what you eat but your eating habits themselves that affect physical health and wellbeing, so we encourage the stay-on-site policy as a way of promoting healthy eating habits and positive relationship-building between a school and its pupils.”
Ron Parry, principal catering officer in children’s services at Rotherham Council, said: “We do encourage stay-on-campus policies, and a total of 12 Rotherham secondary schools operate stay-on-campus policies which have been in place for many years.
“Stay-on-campus policies are only one measure which will help to address the childhood obesity problem.
“The increased take-up of school meals, which provide a nutritional and balanced meal, and the introduction of healthy packed lunch regulations - guidelines for these are already available to all schools in Rotherham - will contribute to the reduction of obesity levels.
“Stay-on-campus policies would also assist with other priorities such as reduction of smoking.”
In Barnsley, the council wants to get 100 per cent of its schools signed up to the local authority catering service - meaning children are served food on-site designed to be high in nutrition.
A spokesman for Barnsley Council said: “In Barnsley 70 per cent of schools purchase from the local authority catering service. Where schools and other education settings in Barnsley have identified childhood obesity as a concern, support, advice and guidance is available.”