Our children spend, on average, 6 1/2 hours a day, 190 days a year, for 12 years at school, yet their health deteriorates over this period.
The school years are extremely important in establishing life-long behaviours. At reception, 22% of our children are overweight or obese, by Year 6 this rises to 40%, many of these children will remain overweight throughout their adult lives. Physical activity rates reduce during the school years. National data indicates that only 1 in 5 boys are achieving the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day by the age of 13 years and for girls the same age it is as low as 1 in 10. Emotional health and wellbeing needs increase over the school years, 10% of children and young people aged 5-16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem and 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14.
The time spent in schools gives us the potential to reach all children and offer interventions to improve their health and wellbeing. Interventions that reach all our school children, as part of the school day, can help reduce inequalities. We need to work with schools to reach as many of our children as possible.
Of course, the primary reason for the time spent at school is education. Improving educational attainment for our children will improve the life chances of our children in many ways, helping them get the most out of life, improving their employment prospects, their ability to copy with everyday problems both practical and emotional, and even how long they live. We will continue to do what we can to support improvements in educational attainment for our children.
Over the last year, we have worked hard to build a strong relationship with the schools in Sandwell. Some of the projects and learnings are showcased within this report.
We cannot improve health and wellbeing for our children without their involvement. What they have to say is really important to us, we must listen! We have put a lot of effort into engaging children and young people, carrying out surveys in schools, hosting conferences, and they have taken over many of our boards and meetings. This report continues to build on this tradition and hear the voices of children and young people. What they have to say has been enlightening, moving, inspiring and entertaining. It has been a pleasure to work with them and listen to them.
Improving health through schools and in partnership with children and young people will continue to be important to us. Improving the health of children and young people is crucial in delivering our overarching strategy on improving healthy life expectancy. I would like to highlight obesity and physical activity in particular. Obesity and physical inactivity are not an inevitable part of modern day life. I believe strongly we can change this and in a relatively short period of time. Firstly, every child needs to be physically active, every day, as part of their school day, and secondly, we need to reduce the amount of sugar that children are exposed to as part of their school date. This includes sugar in school meals, tuck shops and vending machines.
This work cannot be done without the continued co-operation of children and young people and schools. I request your help in making this happen.
Please view the video below to understand more about our vision in Sandwell and our key priorities.
Jyoti Atri, Director of Public Health, Sandwell Council