Schools have a crucial role to play in promoting the health of young people and shaping the attitudes and behaviours that affect it. Good health at an early age not only helps to avoid future health problems such as obesity and heart disease: it can also improve pupils' ability to learn.
Eco-Schools in Scotland may already be meeting many of the defined objectives and learning outcomes for this topic through participation in other national initiatives such as Health Promoting Schools and the Active Schools programme.
The big picture
The state of our health is directly related not only to our long-term physical well-being but also to emotional and social factors - our general happiness, confidence and outlook on life. There is also a clear relationship between health and educational attainment.
After the influence of the family, formal education is one of the most important factors in encouraging healthy attitudes and habits in children and young people. It has been estimated that the average pupil will spend some 15,000 hours of his or her life at school, so schools, therefore, play a vital role in promoting not only regular exercise and healthy diets but in developing pupils' emotional well-being.
School years are an impressionable period in the lives of young people. Many pupils will, at some stage, be subjected to a range of social pressures which may affect their health; from bullying and the stress of exams, to peer pressure to experiment with smoking and drugs.
Schools need, therefore, be prepared to equip pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with these issues responsibly.
Eco-Schools - a holistic approach
An Eco School, as part of a health-promoting community, will:
- Exhibit principles that respect individuals and acknowledge their right to well-being
- Recognise the importance of the environment as an important contributor to well-being.
- Show a strong ethos in which the needs of the individual are recognised and their achievments acknowledged.
- Provide a health education programme and learning/teaching styles that place the child at the centre of education.
- Have a clear development plan that details the programmes, activities and processes that the school is involved in.
- Provide pupils with structure and consistency and opportunities for social engagement.
- Provide a range of support mechanisms and a supportive, safe environment that will provide pupils with the confidence to learn.
- Actively promote health through the curriculum and in the way the school is managed and in its culture and ethos.
- Influence the quality of the meals served within the canteen and provide healthier options for pupils through tuck shops or vending machines.
- Encourage pupils and staff to be more physically active both in and out of school.
- Help equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and attitudes which provide springboards to future long-term health.
Our Activities pages have additional ideas to help you with your Health and Well-being work.
Health & Well-Being - Eco-Schools Objectives and Learning Outcomes
- to raise awareness of how health issues impact on the environment and vice versa.
- to encourage schools to put into place a sustainable plan for being a healthy school.
- to demonstrate that a healthy school is one that looks holistically at issues of exercise, diet, the aesthetic quality of the school and its grounds, bullying and the risks associated with lifestyle issues (eg sexual activity, smoking, drugs) as well as environmental concerns (eg air pollution).
- Through work on the Health & Well-Being topic, pupils should be enabled to:
- understand the components of a healthy lifestyle.
- make choices and decisions that affect their lives.
- seek professional advice confidently, if required.
- carry out an audit of the well-being of the school, defining areas for investigation and interpreting results.
- collect, interpret and present data in different forms, using ICT as appropriate.