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Te Matauranga Primary School

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You can’t say one thing and do another – kids see right through that.

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Principal

The school ethos and organisation

A food and nutrition policy has been developed, which includes the rationale and aims such as encouraging children to make positive

choices for their own health, developing systems to support healthy nutrition that are consistent across the entire school, and encouraging community awareness and participation in healthy lifestyle choices. There are also six high-level procedures encouraging children to take responsibility for their own health through classroom programmes, promoting modelling of healthy choices, covering the availability of foods at camps and events and for sale in the school canteen, and collaboration with outside agencies.

“We have been given the responsibility for these children by their parents, and we take that responsibility really seriously,” says the principal. “So everything we do for these kids is the absolute best we can and is in their best interests. And that’s not a challenge, that’s our job. We have that responsibility, and that weighs heavily on every decision we make.”

The principal also explains that it is easy to prioritise what you believe in. “We’ve never felt constrained by anything – not by money or rules. We do what we believe in. It’s not hard.”

Curriculum programmes

Learning is the primary focus at Te Matauranga, and the principal believes that “in order to concentrate on learning, children have to be in a certain space. They have to be fed, they have to be warm, they have to be safe, they have to be happy. Health promotion is seen as part of creating a learning environment by ensuring that children’s total well-being is supported at school. It’s a package deal – we don’t separate it out.”

An edible garden in the school’s internal courtyard area has made growing food fun and educational for the students – and they enjoy eating the results! The idea was supported by the staff and Board of Trustees, and funding was made available to build the planters and buy soil, seeds/seedlings, and tools. There is one key person who oversees the garden, along with a mixed-age learning stream that uses gardening activities to teach the curriculum and allows children of all ages to learn more about food growing, cooking, and nutrition. In addition, two year 1 classes have responsibility for looking after one planter box each.

Co-curricular health promotion opportunities

The principal emphasises that you cannot do health promotion as an add-on, because there are likely to be inconsistencies. “You can’t say one thing and do another – kids see right through that.” This means that healthy eating messages and practices are interwoven into the everyday activities of the school and are "built in" and sustainable.

Healthy eating is infiltrating into all areas of the schools. Shared lunches are one way the school rewards good behaviour. One class decided to have a healthy shared lunch as a treat, and brought along healthy food including fruit and salads. Children understand that treat foods are not for every day, and "rewards" have to be earned. Almost all of the kids are enjoying having fruit every day.

The school community environment

Apple.

At the end of 2006, the school decided that the canteen needed an overhaul to become healthier, and a canteen manager was employed to replace the previous contract supplier. Students, staff, and parents were surveyed to find out what the canteen should provide, and a new, healthier menu was developed, consisting of sandwiches, filled rolls, and hot food (such as pizza and macaroni cheese), which are all prepared on the school premises, along with some pre-packaged food such as muesli bars, juice, and flavoured milk.

There are no fizzy drinks, chocolates, ice-cream, or lollies. National Heart Foundation pies are available only on Fridays, but sales have been poor. The canteen manager thought this could be for two reasons: because other stores sell pies more cheaply, or, hopefully, because people have got out of the habit of ordering pies for lunch.

Feedback following the changes to the canteen has been overwhelmingly positive. At first, some of the students were asking "What about the pies?", but they have come to like the sandwiches and hot foods, and parents and staff are very supportive of the changes.

Everyone is involved. The canteen manager informally asks students and parents for ideas about new products and incorporates their ideas where possible. She is gradually introducing more brown/wholewheat bread, and intends to gradually add items and vary the menu over time, but is constrained by the available resources, mainly time and money. Teachers are now buying lunch from the canteen.

School and community partnerships

This extensive consultation process undertaken before Te Matauranga was established in 2004, and ongoing efforts to ensure that the school meets parents’ expectations, is the foundation for a strong school–community relationship. Working with the community has been a strong factor in the shaping of the school and the way things happen.

Te Matauranga has two 45-minute breaks during the school day, one at 10:45am when fruit from the Fruit in Schools scheme is eaten prior to going out to play, and another at 1:15pm, when students are given 10 minutes to eat their lunch in the classroom, followed by a sport activity. Eating lunch in the classroom provides an opportunity for teachers to provide positive reinforcement to students with healthy lunches. It also enables teachers to identify children who have not got any lunch. These students get a "pass" and are discreetly sent to the staffroom to get a sandwich.

Staff are noticing that lunches brought from home are becoming healthier. Most students now have sandwiches, yoghurt, and fruit or similar, and fewer children are coming to school without any lunch. Some of the children in the school council report that they now eat more fruit and vegetables at home.

Students are showing more willingness to try new fruits and other foods, and are being exposed to fruits and foods that they wouldn’t otherwise have encountered. When they were given persimmons as part of Fruit in Schools, one child said "Why have they given us pumpkins?" Teachers and parents report that the exposure to new foods at school has made students more adventurous with food in general and less fussy.

A Parents Charter encourages parents to support their children’s learning by "providing breakfast on school mornings and supplying adequate food to give children enough energy for learning and physical activity throughout the school day".

Te Matauranga is part of the Health Promoting Schools programme and was awarded the Heart Foundation Bronze award in mid 2007. As the school moves to silver and gold levels of the programme, there will be increasing focus on student leadership and the wider community (such as healthy fundraising).

The school sees support from external agencies as being crucial for health promotion – “You couldn’t do it on your own.” Te Matauranga receives much support from the Fruit in Schools coordinator and the Heart Foundation’s Health Promotion coordinator, who says her job is to motivate, inspire, and advise schools. “We make a point of not telling schools what to do. It’s more about providing a few ideas and then supporting them to carry out the practical ideas that they decide to run with.”


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