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Kaingaroa Forest School

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The Health Promoting Schools thing was something we had to do to get Fruit in Schools for the children, so we just did it. I thought it would be one of those things that would come and go, but it didn’t go. It grew and it is now just what we do. It is part of the school now 

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Principal

School ethos and organisation

The catalyst for the school’s health promotion drive was joining the Fruit in Schools programme, and in a very short time the school has gone from zero awareness of healthy lifestyles to it being the

Burger.

norm to talk about healthy eating and physical activity.

Curriculum programmes

Healthy food/activity messages have now become part of the classroom lessons. The daily fruit from the Fruit in Schools scheme reminds teachers to talk about healthy eating, and it has been incorporated into other subject areas as well.

Co-curricular health promotion opportunities

Changes have also been made to the structure of the school day, with breaks arranged around the times when children are most able to concentrate, and a fruit break in the morning. Each class has a half-hour break at some stage during the day to do some physical activity.

The school and community environment

The teachers recognise the importance of being role models – if they are to teach about healthy lifestyles, they have to ‘walk the talk’. This was the incentive for the principal, his wife, and one of the other teachers to lose a lot of weight. The children are really proud of the teachers’ efforts – they see the teachers walking in the village, and that they go to the gym and are no longer eating junk food.

The principal believes the children are beginning to provide leadership to their whanau in healthy eating and physical activity. He sees changing habits as a generational issue and feels that healthy eating is likely to grow with the present generation of students, who are increasingly aware and knowledgeable about healthy eating. He is finding that parents are beginning to talk about their children’s interest in healthy food.

The school tries to provide better food for the children, but is restricted by what is available in the two local shops, which have limited choices based on what people can afford to buy. However, a small, closely knit community means the school staff know the shop owners well and have been able get their co-operation in stocking healthier items. The school is aware that the shops struggle for survival in such a small community, and it feels a responsibility to make sure the community will buy what it has recommended.

It is also recognised that the cost of healthier options can be a barrier. The Fruit in Schools coordinator looked at the cost of ‘healthier’ drinks at the local shop and found that these options were all more expensive than soft drinks. Reducing soft drink consumption was discussed at one of the school whanau evenings, and the parents agreed that if good water was available at the school they would not send sweet drinks to school with their children.

School and community partnerships

Banana.

With the assistance of the Health Promoting Schools coordinator, the school set up a Health Committee comprising students, staff, parents, and Board of Trustee members.

The health promotion work is driven by Kaingaroa’s Fruit in Schools coordinator. Because it is a small school, she also works as the school gardener, cleaner, sports coach, and teacher aide. She is assisted by another teacher aide, a part-time ICT teacher, and several parents who, along with four year 7 and 8 students, make up the Health Committee. This work is supported by the Health Promoting Schools coordinator from the region’s District Health Board, who has a very good relationship with the school and the children.

The committee’s first job was to survey the children and their whanau about their health concerns. This identified the first priority – to improve the school’s water supply. The children say the water tastes horrible (Kaingaroa Forest water is graded EE, which is unacceptable according to the New Zealand Drinking Water Standards) and they don’t want to drink it, with the result that they bring sweet drinks to school. The committee intends to approach the local water authority to ask it to find a permanent solution to this problem, and in the interim the school is trying to raise funds to buy water filters/coolers for each classroom. In the meantime, children fill water bottles from the unit in the staffroom.

With the assistance of the staff and the Health Promoting Schools coordinator, the students on the Health Committee have prepared a DVD on healthy eating and what it means to be a Health Promoting School. They presented the DVD to the school community at a whanau evening, at a local Health Promoting Schools meeting, and at Fruit in Schools cluster meetings. The DVD is helping to create awareness of healthy lifestyles in the community and the school, and its students are very proud of this achievement.

The school works hard at engaging its whanau and the wider community. School newsletters are on the counter in the local shops and the whole community knows what is going on at the school. Both shops also have the 'Healthy lunches made easy' posters on display. Once a term, the school holds whanau evenings. These are well attended and allow students to present their work on health promotion and provide a forum for the pupils, parents, and wider community to discuss issues.

The new chairman of the Board of Trustees believes the school can lead the community in health promotion because “when the school does something like this, it tells the community it is possible”. An example of this is the talk about improving the water in the school triggering discussion about the need for better water for the whole community. The chairman also believes the school can ‘kick start’ the whanau to think about better food for their children and themselves. He says: “Most of them don’t know much about healthy food, and if nobody tells them they can’t do anything about it, but if someone tells them, they will try.”


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