Are Healthy Eating Programmes Effective in schools?
A successful healthy eating programme which is introduced to children and families in education can have positive and pro-long effects, changing their attitudes and assumptions towards foods in the future (Moyse, 2009).
The main objective regarding this study was to identify whether the government’s attempts to eradicate childhood obesity, medical diseases relating to diet and improve health education for children, through healthy eating programmes within schools have been successful or not.
Healthy eating programmes have been implemented within settings across the U.K.which help children and their parents recognize the potential benefits of healthy eating and leading an active lifestyle.
Within this study two focus groups of Teachers and Parents were used to identify how successful healthy eating programmes were in their place of work or Child’s educational setting.
Teachers and a range of parents were from two different schools, one being in an advanced area, and the other in a deprived area. Geographic evidence was collected to distinguish both areas the schools were in.
Interviews were conducted with both teachers and questionnaires were sent out for parents.
The study found the government are having a subsequent influence upon children and their families in promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle however, settings are failing to have effective parent partnerships with one another which make one important aim of working alongside parent’s lapse, within these programmes.
Also the quality of support staff are giving parents is not sufficient or influential to them.
Although both schools were from two separate areas no sufficient evidence was found which suggested environmental factors or families from different socio economic status feed their children any differently from one another.
Healthy eating is crucial to the development of children.
If children are not given the correct nutrients this can lead them to become undernourished and they may suffer medical problems later on in life (Tassoni, 2006).
According to www.nhs.gov.uk across the U.K. the rise in obesity level has increased by 16%, in the ages of children between 2-16 years of age in the last three years. This figure shows how much obesity is becoming a problem within the U.K. which is leading to an unhealthy nation (James & Linton, 2008).
Healthy eating programmes according to Stump (2008) provide children and their families the bases for healthy living. Therefore they are vital in terms of eradicating the mass of an ‘unhealthy nation’. (James & Lintin, 2008).
These programmes claim to help tackle and prevent issues which have been resulted due to unhealthy diets, by promoting the awareness and benefits of a healthy lifestyle and encouraging children and adults to become more active (Earle, 2007).
The importance of educating parents is vital in order to help overcome these problems which may occur later on in life. If parents are not educated as well as their children it will lead parents to provide unhealthy meals for their children not being able to recognise the on-going consequences (Sigelman & Rider, 2008).
After all the importance of educating parents is obvious as children do not control the food budget within the home environment, children eat what they have been given (Murrin, 2007).
Teachers and staff within educational settings have the responsibility to ensure children and their families realise the potential benefits of healthy eating and are made aware of the consequences lead by having a unhealthy diet (Rink et al, 2010 ).
The aim of this study is to highlight how effective healthy eating programmes are within schools?
’ Advice educating parents must be practical meaning that parents need to know how to do it within the constraints of their circumstances’.
Therefore issues within this study which are going to be explored are how well effective parent partnerships are within these settings, environmental factors, costs and perceived costs of healthy foods and overall how well and successful these programmes are within educational settings.
Within the study, any flaws are going to be addressed which are hindering these programmes from achieving their fullest potential within educational settings.
These limitations will be addressed and linked with current themes running through literature which have suggested the same or have been contradictive towards what is being explored.
This research is a crucial stepping stone in addressing the needs of successful health education as once these limitations are identified it will mean that educational settings can address what needs to be done to ensure that healthy eating programmes are successful and influential to children and their families at present and in the future.
Once they have been influential they can have dramatic affects on people’s lifestyles and eradicating medical diseases such as diabeties or obesity can be prevented,
In order for this research to commence methods and procedures regarding methodology had to be discussed to ensure the data gathered was valid. The research process included semi-structured interviews with teachers and questionnaires sent out to parent, these were seen as the most beneficial methods in gathering data for this particular study.
2.0 Literature Review
Various programmes have been put into place within educational settings, to help children and adults view the importance of healthy eating. By researching through national guidelines, journal articles and relevant literature it became apparent that sources are doing what they can to promote healthy eating, however are they being implemented successfully is what I would like to find out within educational settings. I believe that in order to promote healthy eating parents/ carers need to be fully aware of the schools efforts of educating their children the importance of healthy eating. If working in partnership with parents this will then encourage healthy eating in the home, one of the main issues relating to healthy eating programmes. The National Assembly for Wales have taken into account the importance for children to eat healthily in schools across the country.
Within this chapter literature relating to healthy eating programmes is going to be discussed along with attention brought to government policies and initiatives within education and healthy eating. Current programmes which have been implemented within schools are also going to be focused upon and what current links research has made with children and healthy eating programmes, as these have impacted on why these initiatives have been put into place.This is why I feel it is also beneficial to add the importance of healthy eating for children and discuss what factors have impacted as the result of unhealthy diets in children such as obesity and other medical related illnesses as a result of unhealthy eating.
2.1 Importance of Healthy Eating in children’s diets
It is vital the children get the correct diet and nutrition as this will help them grow and develop healthily. Seaman (1997) believes nutrition to be one of the crucial factors which impacts on the health and development of children. The importance of healthy eating is being widely stressed across the U.K. however, Rosenkranz and Dzewaltowski (2008) believe, children’s eating habits are being influenced by the environment and the availability of fast food. E.g. If children live in the city where there are more take away shops and fast food outlets, they are exposed to more unhealthy eating choices opposed to children living in the country side where there are no fast food outlets. Perhaps this is to be true however various studies believe there have been other influential factors which have a negative impact on the way children view healthy food choices, such as poverty or parental influences and perceptions, this is why parents and their perceptions of healthy eating contribute to the way they may educate their children about food choices. (Brown and Odjen 2004).
It can also be viewed as the parents fault as well as the environment or globalisation for influencing unhealthy diets to children. Perhaps this is apparent as Reilly (2007) found, a majority of parents, professionals in health and social care and education settings with children and adolescents, were not that certain about the issues surrounding obesity, how is caused and ways of preventing it, as a result of this parents may not be getting the support they need to help introduce these healthy food choices to their children or be able to identity if their child is overweight.
Another clear issue of this is the lack of education or support parents are receiving with regards to their children’s diet. This can be a problem as parents are seen as the Childs main educators. Manson (2008) emphasises the importance of a child receiving help from a good role model is vital in terms of a healthy lifestyle.
Walker (2005) believes, if a child has a poor diet they are potentially jeopardising their future health. Within his study he identifies different food choices and the illnesses that follow due to poor diets.
Lynne (2007) highlights the importance of offering support to children and adolescents. She also believed that children should be encouraged to do more physical activity because of the raise of obesity levels in the past few years due to children’s poor eating habits and lack of fruit and vegetable intake. If children have a healthy diet and lifestyle obesity and other health relating issues can be prevented, perhaps parents need to be more aware of these health related issues with information from teachers and other sources. Information regarding health issues should be raised to them rather than just trying to involve their children within the healthy eating programmes.
2.2 Current Programmes implemented within schools
Tassoni (2006) highlights, lack of exercise and poor diet contributes to obesity. Meggitt.C. (2001) discusses that within healthy eating programmes these two main issues are tackled and prevented. As the parents and child’s families have substantial influence of what children eat, Mulvill & Quiley (2003), highlight, the importance of healthy eating programmes that are family based and involve the whole family not just the main carers where appropriate, educating parents on diet and health related issues. As healthy eating programmes are vital to children within their learning, Warwick et al (2005) suggested schools were key when educating children about healthy eating encouraging the child’s social and emotional well being in the process.
There have been relevant pieces of information about Healthy Eating programmes and whether they are successful or unsuccessful. According to Martin.J and Oakely (2007)schools that implement healthy eating programmes have less children in their setting who are obese, the children eat more fruit and vegetables and also have more interests of Physical Education because they are more physically active due to their diets.
Educating children within their primary school it vital in terms of helping them choose the correct decisions when they go into adult life. Ewles and Simmnett (1991) stressed the importance of this and argued that if children did not have sufficient health education they would have no knowledge and understanding about their health or wouldn’t be able to make their own decisions about their food choices to promote their health. This is why local authorities emphasise the importance of healthy eating in schools. Local Authorities have the duty to help schools in their areas to reach National Healthy School Status. The programme schools and local authorities have participated in is called the National Healthy schools status Programme (NHSP), and according to healthyschools.gov.uk, 97% of educational settings have been pat of the programme with over 70% of schools reaching ‘national schools status’. This programme is clearly successful in health education and had played a significant role as now ‘four million children enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
Recently, the health secretary has released a new programme called ‘Change 4 Life’. The ‘Change for Life’, programme outlines the continuous problems of childhood obesity and the need for a healthy diet and moderate exercise. The programme works with different organisations including schools, throughout the community to encourage healthy eating. This programme is linked with the National Healthy Schools Programme, and both initial programmes are working together to promote healthy eating in schools, including working with staff and parents offering them support, such as recipes to cook in the home and information packs including recipes and games to play or make with their children, to encourage a more healthier lifestyle.As well as information for children to access in school the programme also have websites for both children and parents to access.
Research into the effectiveness of the programme was published onto dh.gov.uk. It states there were over one million parents who have made a positive change to their child’s diets and encouraged their children to have a more active lifestyle. From the information generated from research clearly the programme is becoming effective especially with Parents.
The Jamie Oliver Programme was set up in 2005.Jamie is promoting Healthy Eating in schools and trying to show parents what children are eating within their dinner time and highlighting the importance of good nutritious foods.
However when the programme was first introduced there were a lot of criticisms and parents were not having effective partnerships with the setting. Jamie has had positive influence across the U.K. and school dinners are now healthy. Also within higher educational settings junk foods have been replaced in vending machines into healthy snacks.
Nelson et al (2007) found that although schools are providing children with meals and achieving healthy nutritional standards however, they are falling to promote the health education, which was resulting in pupils continuing to make poor food choices. However a recent report by Ofsted (2007), Food in Schools, encouraging healthier eating found during a survey that 19 out of 27 schools which took part in the research, children where not having dinners due to new school policy and change. A reason which Ofsted (2007:2) claims to be due to the lack of communication between settings and home and ‘lack of choice in what is now available to children’. If parents know their children are fussy eaters and there is not much choice on schools menu’s parents will worry about whether their children are eating their dinners in school (Aggleton, Denisson & Warwick, 2010).
The ‘National fruit scheme’ has also been implemented within schools. The scheme is to help promote the intake of fruit among school children. The Dairy council found that many school aged children eat 7 treat bars of chocolate a week and hardly have any intake of fruit and vegetables. Edwards & Hartwell (2002) believed that by having the fruit scheme within schools this will increase children’s diets because at least they are having a proportion of fruit a day.
Breakfast clubs have been placed into schools throughout Wales in order to provide children with a positive start to the day and encourage them to have a healthy breakfast. The Welsh Assembly government provides the funding for the breakfast clubs and they are run by the schools themselves.
The Welsh Assembly government realises the importance for children to have a healthy diet with regards to their performance and health according to www.wales.gov.uk more healthy eating initiatives are being implemented with schools in different areas throughout Wales.
However WAG (2009) highlights possible implications of this going ahead due to cost implications for schools.
Murphy et al (2007) believes that within a child’s breakfast there should be opportunities for them to choose items from the four main food groups which are ‘milk based drinks or products, cereal (not sugar coated), fruit and breads’. ofsted.gov.uk has also reported the benefits of breakfast clubs. They also highlighted that one of the main advantages of breakfast clubs was children from poorer backgrounds were able to eat before their lessons, which then helped their concentration span and attention. Another issue which was raised within the report was teachers were able to identify children who had had breakfast and the ones who did not in their class. Another report by Foodvision.gov.uk highlighted four main benefits of breakfast clubs. They found they improved children’s education, helps them meet their social needs, helps support parents and children and overall they were successful when improving and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Belderson et al (2003) believed children’s academic performance would be affected if children didn’t have breakfast. It also suggested that not having breakfast would affect the child’s concentration span. Anderson and Bell (2002) stressed the importance of breakfast club settings and their role in helping a child’s performance within school, along with educating them to improve their nutritional intake.
In terms of the advantages of breakfast clubs they are successful and effective in providing children with a healthy start to the day.
‘5 a day’ has been implemented within schools as part of the government’s policies on encouraging healthy eating.
This encourages children to eat at least five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day.
This programme can be seen being advertised in local supermarkets and has had a major influence on the intake of children’s consumptions of fruit and vegetables.
Nationalarchives.gov.uk states ‘children within a mainstream school should receive a free piece of fruit or vegetables within each school day’. By giving children fruit and vegetables this enables them to have vitamins and a nutritious snack throughout the school day. It will also benefit parents as some may not be able to afford to send their children to school every day with a piece of fruit so it saves them the worries of making sure their child has money for fruit.
2.3 Government Polices and Initiatives
Since the importance of healthy eating has been highlighted for many years it is important the government implement policies and initiatives are out in place in order to help schools and organisations with the promotion of healthy eating programmes. Opsi.gov.uk highlights the responsibility of local authorities with regards to healthy eating, also Estyn (2008:20) discusses the importance of health education and article 24 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of a Child Act where children are given the ‘right’ to health and care’.
Other Act health education can fall under are, the Children’s Act 2004 and Public Health Service Act.
Within healthy eating programmes, aims are clearly set out along with outcomes of what each programme intends to do as well as giving children the right to health care of a high standard.
WAG (2008) emphasises that one of their main outcomes for children to do within the foundation phase curriculum is to ensure children are aware of healthy eating choices and can distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods. They also recognise that health promotion can be placed into every subject of the curriculum.
However despite current policies and legislation Harrison and Edwards (1994) argue that within the majority of settings there has not been enough emphasised on health education and it has not been seen as a high priority. They believe there are current pressures upon the curriculum and practitioners working in education settings. They also state many teachers see themselves as ‘ill prepared’, and ‘not equipped’ to educate children on health issues. Young and Williams (1989) also believe pupils may sometimes see health education as ‘moralising or concerned’ with matters of ill health ‘remote from their own lives’.
2.4 Research linking to healthy eating with children and Parental Influences
According to research by The School Food Trust, healthy eating can also have a positive effect on children’s behaviour. It is apparent that not only does the Childs health become prominent, also their behaviour. This is why school programmes are important because it puts theory into practice. Healthy eating is not just to decrease numbers of child obesity, but to have a holistic approach with how Childs nutrition affects their overall development. Margaret McMillan stressed the importance of healthy eating and its effects on children’s development. McMillan protested to improve the conditions of educational institutions for all children’s benefits, introducing school meals believing they would offer many advantages to children holistically.
According to research called The Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme which was carried out by The Bangor Food and Activity Research Unit found that Britain now has one of the worst records of heart disease in the world, due to the UK having lack of fruit and vegetable intake. However the problem is not only within the U.K., countries around the world are trying to stress the importance of healthy eating. Rosenkranz & Dzewaltowski (2008) add that In the United States, children are faring poorly in meeting recommended nutritional goals . Rosenkranz & Dzewaltowski (2008) also stress that healthy food choices all over the world are becoming an epidemic and are having dramatic results on people’s health, raising the increase of long and short term illnesses in the last 30 years. Although this study will be generated within the U.K. it is important that the ‘whole picture’ is looked at as children’s diets is becoming an ‘epidemic’, outside the U.K. also.
Within The Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme the university included children from the age range of 2-11 years old. The programme looked at children from different settings with a percentage of the children in schools, nurseries or in the home. The programme monitored how much fruit and vegetables the children were consuming by using the methodology of questionnaires and food diaries from nurseries, schools and homes, as well as offering support to all three sources and encouraging the adults involved to give the children more fruit and vegetables. After monitoring all three, the research came to the conclusion that children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables had overall increased, furthermore the children’s awareness had increased when it came to healthy eating, and identifying healthy food choices.
Health and nutrition may play a greater role in families with children than in families without children because parents attempt to model healthy eating to their children. Edelstein (2006) stresses, parental modelling of good habits is most influential informing children’s eating habits. The curriculum acknowledges the importance of effective partnerships and the benefits it has when educating children. DES (1986) also acknowledges this by highlighting children will learn healthy eating within the home where they will develop attitudes towards food and different behaviours.
However despite the Welsh Assembly Government and Department for standards and skills proposing the benefits of working with parents, Morton and Lloyd (1994) found that in a study by HMA (1993) of health education and policies, it was concluded that schools were not recognising they needed to involve non teaching staff or parents in the promotion of healthy eating. This would have a negative impact on health promotion.
Robert Owen believed that parents will have great influence on children and the way they were brought up. Pound (2005:12) quotes Roberts statement and adds
‘Man is a compound being, whose character is formed of his constitution or organisation at birth, and of the effects on external circumstances acting upon that organisation, which effects continue to operate upon and influence him from birth to death’.
Some theorists believe however those environmental factors are to blame for children’s food choices. Boudieus argued that children’s food consumption was influenced by their culture and their attitudes would already be embedded. However, Wong (2006) believed that parents are not to have a part of any blame in their children’s food choices but social class is the main instigator, also Warde (1997) adds that the way children are brought up will affect the way they perceive their foods.
Mennell (1992) also agrees with Boudieus’s theory however he suggests that social class has an influence and adds ‘the working class tends to eat more unhealthy foods, compared with the middle and upper classes. Therefore they feel that children who live in upper class backgrounds will have more healthy food choices and families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will have less of a healthy diet, due to cost of food and lifestyle. Nelson (2000) also adds to the argument suggesting people who have low income will have a poor diet at all stages of life.
Miller and Korenman (1994) reported that children living in poor families were more likely to experience deficient nutritional status, and not meet the developmental norms according to their age.
A study by Gregory et al (1995) also concluded from a study that children who were from less socio disadvantaged backgrounds had less of a healthy diet, and it also concluded that the children had a higher consumption of sugar intake in their diets, opposed to children from working class backgrounds
However to solve the mass of unhealthy diets children are consuming one would say decrease the value of food or allow families a more expandable budget to buy the foods, however, this is not the case according to Nelson (2000) who believes there is little evidence to show that families with more money will spend on healthier foods and have better diets.
It is clear that external factors, may affect individuals, communities and their health status. Morton and Lloyd (1994) discuss factors such as general health, housing, employment and unemployment income and availability of accesses.
Daniel Goleman identified parental influences as emotional intelligence and focused his theories upon family life. Pound (2005) adds how Goleman stresses a Childs first schooling experienced is within the family home, and how he believed that a Childs emotional learning was developed here allowing them to make their own opinions, attitudes and assumptions of their own. Goleman believed parents also being the Childs first educators and what ever the child sees at home will have an influence upon their life. Seaman (1997) also contributes to this suggesting that from children’s attitudes of poor eating habits during childhood, it will later play the role of influencing their decisions into adult life and may pass onto future generations.
Research carried out by the 1998 National Longitudinal Study Survey, found that parents of children aged 3-5 year old did less monitoring of their children and offered them more food choices. These allowing children to have no barriers when it came to food choices vie, introducing them to an unhealthy diet at such as a young age. (O’Dougherty, Story and Lytle 2006).
A study by Horner et al (1998) believed that children react to food by positive conceptualisations e.g. if a parent doesn’t like food then their child will not either, unless they have had positive experiences and have tasted the foods, or opportunities to see and hear others react positively to the foods. Horner et al (1993) list many studies which show preferences for food generated by continual tasting for a food. (Birch and Marlin, 1982; Birch et al., 1987; Pliner, 1982).
To conclude, the importance of parental influence has been studied greatly within the literature of children’s healthy eating programmes as the parents are seen as the Childs main educators. As parents are a part of this survey it has only become apparent because effective parent partnerships are vital when educating children on healthy food choices. If parents are not focused upon and are not encouraged throughout the programmes to provide their children with health diets and realise its importance then this can result in the programmes being non effective overall.
Research is a systematic process and there are two main kinds of data which can be generated, both quantitative and qualitative (Luck, Pocock & Tricker, 2004).
Houser (2008:5) defines ‘Research ensures practices are based on evidence, rather than eloquence or tradition’.
Within this chapter methodology will be discussed in order to justify the research questions in hand: Are Healthy Eating Programmes effective in schools?
The questions asked within the questionnaires were generated from themes running through the literature. E.g. Parental Influences, Environmental factors, Working with Parents etc. These themes can relate to ontology as it was relevant and worth knowing what theories lay around healthy eating programmes and influences before commencing with the study.
Ethical issues along with validity and reliability will be drawn upon and how some barriers will prevent the researcher from obtaining any information.
3.2 Where the research took place and how the information was accessed.
The research took place in two mainstream schools in Wales. The first school was situated in an advanced area, and the second school in a deprived area.
In order to make a distinction between these two schools within the different areas, the percentage of working class families was clearly more within the school (A) due to the children’s parents who pay the school themselves, as to the other school (B) where a high percentage of children were having free school meals. By looking at the percentage of children who received free school meals within the two schools allowed me identify and categorise the schools in the areas of working class and deprived areas.
As other means of evidence which suggests School (B) is in a deprived area, bbc.co.uk states it was part of the ‘top ten deprived areas in Wales’.
Another relevant piece of evidence is stated in research by WIMB (2008) which also suggests the area in which the school is situated in a deprived area.
Although this research was carried out in 2008 it is still evident that the school and area is still in a situation of deprivation due to the number of children receiving free school meals. Bridgend.gov.uk states ‘Pupils are entitled to receive a free school meal if their parents/carers are in receipt of the qualifying benefits’.
Therefore parents who are receiving benefits are not able to financially provide payments for school meals themselves (Perterson, 2010).
The main reasons why schools where in different areas were because whether the availability of healthy foods or whether working class affected the implementation and promotion of healthy eating programmes were going to be explored.
This research was not generated to see how many free school meals each school provides for children, however this could be used as a tool for identifying whether availability, and cost implications of receiving school meals, is evident within the schools.
As already touched upon in the literature review children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have different food choices to those of advantage. Free school meals have been chosen as an indicator that the first school has less working class families than the second school selected.
3.3 Qualitative & Quantitative Methods
The questions proposed within this research helped find out whether healthy eating programmes are effective in both settings. It enabled the study to draw upon some of the main factors which have affected the ways these healthy eating programmes have been implemented within settings. The research I would like to find out parents views and educators views on what is being done to help overcome, the over loaded junk food diets children are having today within society.
Before methods were chosen the sample size of each source was an important factor to consider. Agreeing with this Randall et al who highlights this is vital to any study as too little participants can lead in insufficient data.
Sample sizes were crucial from both sources so that enough data was collected and the types of methods used within the research were greatly important and needed to be designed ‘appropriately’. Schostak (2008).
The two categories of participants within the research were Teachers and Parents.
Reasons for choosing these participants were because found within the literature parents were seen as the Childs main educators and teachers spend a lot of time with the children when educating the children about healthy eating.
In terms of gate keepers during the research the most efficient people who could help with the result research were used to their potential. These allowed the researcher to direct the research in a suitable direction to obtain the information to answer the initial question.
The head teachers of both schools selected two teachers from their school to participate within the interviews. Each child from the teachers class selected was sent home with a letter and questionnaire.
Teachers were involved within semi-structures interviews which helped generate answers which will be used to analyse any findings. The research was intended to find out whether Healthy Eating Programmes effective in Schools Two schools were selected as this will identify any differences between the implementation of the programmes within the two schools.
As means of methodology both qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect and present the data, Rasinski, Viechnicki and O’Muircheartaigh (2005) state that using both qualitative and quantitative methods in research allow the researcher to have a ‘broad, mixed methods tool kit’.’
Qualitative data holds many advantages including providing researchers with rich data related to ‘relevant theory’ (Elsbach & Bechky 2009:5).
Also giving the advantage of allowing data to be peoples opinions and offer the explanations from others (McNabb 2004).
Questionnaires have their advantages, Birdie, Anderson, and Niebuhr, (1986) state how questionnaires are common to people and sources will know how to respond to questionnaires when they receive one.
Parents have a very busy time schedule and Cahalan, 1951; Jahoda, et al., (1992) state ‘They are less intrusive than telephone or face-to-face surveys. When respondents receive a questionnaire in the mail, they are free to complete it on their own time-table’.
Walonick, (1993:45) adds,
‘One important way to assure a successful questionnaire is to include other experts and relevant decision-makers in the questionnaire design processes’.
Questions which would make people feel apprehensive or uncomfortable were avoided within the questionnaires.
During the design process of questionnaires the types of questions used were analysed. This is vital according to Clough and Nutbrown (2007:44) who highlight how different questions ‘build the planks to any research study’.
Response formats were analysed, within the questionnaires too many open ended questions were avoided, simple closed questions were used checklists, all response formats have their advantages and have easy answering procedures. (Greenfeild 2002).
Research questions derived from themes running through the literature and helped develop field questions to guide me to data collection. The field questions generated were put within each questionnaire.
Writing the questions had to be taken into account no intention was placed on feeding any of the recipient’s responses.
Semi structured interviews were seen as best methods to use for teachers, given that they generate more qualitative data for analysis. Testing teachers knowledge or ability is not what this research consists if but understanding their experience and understanding of healthy eating programmes within their school. By having semi structured, one to one interviews, they will help me develop the research and allow the interviewer to add more questions with the interviewee’s responses. They will help identify any relationships between the literature found on the promotion of healthy eating programmes and any correlations related to this study.
Where the interviews took place was crucial, no interruption was important. Johnson (2002) stresses the importance of participants feeling comfortable during interviews so each of the teachers classrooms were seen as the most beneficial place after the school day. It also allowed the participant to feel confident in similar surroundings.
So the interviews run smoothly mock interviews took place first with the teachers. Dilley (2000) believes this to be beneficial to both interviewer and interviewee.
Dilley (2000: 135) also suggests that there are
‘Six questions are the heart of any interview: who, what, when, where, why, and how. No matter the subject, the amount of time available for the interview, or the setting, at minimum we must attempt to find answers to those questions.’
A recording device was used to record the data from the teachers. Recording devices hold the advantage of allowing the researcher to have accuracy when analysing the results.They allow the interviewer to ‘focus exclusively on the flow and content of discussion’, avoiding going off track and gaining invalid data something which needed to be avoided due to the time limit of the interview. (Rogellburg 2002: 167).
3.4 Ethical Considerations
In order to gain permission for the research to take place, confirmation had to be granted off the schools head teachers so the teachers could take part in the interviews and the teachers themselves. Parental consent was also gained in order for parents to participate in the questionnaires.
The purpose of the research was justified to each person taking part by a letter and discussion.
BERA guidelines were followed to ensure the study was carried out fairly and safely. Ethics needed to be taken into account before I could start my research. Any persons involved were told they have the right to withdraw at any time and be able to gain access to the findings at the end of the research. Confidentiality was also taken into consideration; it was ensured that all persons involved stayed anonymous, throughout the research. Before they were asked to take part in the questionnaires they were made fully aware what the intention of the research was for and what their participation would help find out, being very open and honest with the participants was taken into account.
Although no personal information was not going to be retrieved using the methods, whilst obtaining the information from the questionnaires and interviews, confidentiality had to be taken into account, The Data Protection Act (1995) states,
“Organisations conducting research implement a code of ethics to ensure these rights are protected’. This means that all involved are fully aware of the purpose of the research. It also gives ‘participants or their guardians the right to refuse or withdraw at any time to anonymity”. (Tassoni 2006:319).
3.5 Validity and Reliability
Each level of research requires some fact of reliability and validity testing of the measurements’ (Wood & Kerr 1997:220).
It is vital that any limitations which will hinder any information being received are dealt with as early as possible as these can cause the research from holding back ‘real issues’ based on ‘reality’. (Wiersma & Jurs 2002:122).
In terms of bias a single blind procedure was used as the participant were aware about the research before hand however, they knew they were put into groups the working class and low economic backgrounds, however they were not aware which groups they belonged to. (Searl 1999). Kruath (2008:215) also suggests ‘subject does not know which experimental condition it has been assigned to’. By having this procedure it will illuminate bias because the participants will not know what area their school has been categorised into. This will also avoid steering any responses from the participants.
Within the semi structured interviews with teachers their opinions and assumptions will steer the research. To make sure these ‘interpretations best reflect reality’, and to avoid any bias, the interviewer did not place any emphasis or steer any response from the interviewee’s responses to the questions. If responses were steered then Callera & Callera (2008:69) believe ‘reliability and validity can be adversely affected by the respondent in terms of their frame of mind’. Depending on what the participant was feeling this had a major affect on what responses they gave, whether they would have agreed or disagreed with the steering response from the interviewer.This is why focus groups were not used, as the researcher was not ‘relying on the participant’s responses’, although they allow more a more stimulating response. (Litosseliti, 2007:3).
One of the schools was from a deprived area and the other from a less disadvantaged area. If one school was chosen this would have made my findings quite biased, and not answered the question proposed in hand.
Children were not participants within the research as some children may find questionnaires quite difficult. Gosling et al (2008) pg. 169 adds
‘Attitudes and knowledge concerning food and health have been used successfully, but such measures may be inadequate among children, as children’s ability to read, write and understand is dependent on age and cognitive development’.
The questionnaires efficiency was tested by the use of a pilot study, which allowed any flaws within the questionnaires to be identified, or outlined the ‘feasibility’ of the ‘investigation’ (Isaac and Michael 1993). A pilot study allows researchers to view any problems which may occur before hand so any limitations can be prevented (Andrew et al 1998). This holds the advantage of examining the questionnaires to see if the ‘data collected is needed’ (Cornmack, 2000:157), enabling the questionnaires to have a trial run so that the information gained was valid to the study.
Prior to the pilot study questions asked were giving irrelevant information. Corrections were then made to ensure the questionnaires aware as effective as possible using Cloughs & Nurbrowns ‘Goldilocks test’ which allowed the questions to be written as effectively as possible.
The types of questions used were vital as they needed to have valid responses. Also cryptic coding or complexity were avoided, participants were able to understand the questions asked by using simple ‘y’ or ‘n’ in answers, and using clear concepts and definitions, so they were able to identify and answer each question with their own responses.
The final draft of questionnaires was reliable and gave valid information.
4. 0 Results
Within this chapter the results which were gathered from questionnaires and two semi-structured interviews are going to be addressed
The school from the advantaged area is going to be referred to as School (A) and the school from the less disadvantaged area is going to be referred to as school (B).
The two participants from the semi-structured interviews are going to be referred to as numbers, this is because confidentiality has to be taken into account and the participants have to remain confidential.
Each heading will refer to the responses from parents and teachers.
Table (i) showing total percentage of parents from both schools responding to questionnaires.
4.2 Awareness of healthy school initiatives
In response to question 1 in the interviews:
“Does your school implement any healthy eating programmes, if yes do you feel they are effective?”
Teachers from schools (A) & (B) identified that both schools were part of healthy eating programmes and schemes and were aware of the governments attempts to tackle obesity and educate children and their parents on a more healthier and active lifestyle. They also reflected positively on the strategies in place within each of their settings in order to educate and promote issues around healthy eating.
Both teachers identified that they were aware that children who eat school dinners and attend breakfast clubs are having over 50% of their nutritional intake within school.
Government policies and initiatives are reflected in the two settings which the Welsh Assembly government have put in place to ensure that healthy school meals are provided for all children in Wales. As stated in section 2.2, WAG (2008) encourages schools with healthy eating initiatives, guidance and support.
Within both schools it was clear that a large majority of parents were aware of healthy school initiatives and knew their child’s school were taking them into consideration by participating in healthy eating programmes.
Question 1 to parents:
‘Are you aware of a healthy eating programme implemented within your Childs school?’
Graph (i) showing how aware parents are in both schools of the healthy eating programmes implemented.
84 % of participants from school (A) answered ‘yes’ they were aware that their Childs school was taking part in various eating programmes. School (B) however, only 68% of parents were aware that their Childs school was involved in healthy eating programmes.
Although there was still a majority of parents who selected ‘no’ over 50% in both schools showed they were aware. There were a small proportion of parents from both schools which did not know their Childs school was part of a healthy eating programme. From School (A) 15% were not aware, and School (B) 31%.
Teachers from both schools were asked;
‘Does your school implement any healthy eating programmes?’
Teacher 1 from school (A);
“…Of course, there has been so much emphasis on healthy eating and the benefits to adults and children. We have to participate within healthy eating programmes as we have a duty to comply with government policies…” (Teacher1, School A)
Teacher 2 from school (B);
“…Yes. Our school and staff know the importance of both healthy eating and exercise and found it crucial that we educate our pupils on the benefits. Healthy eating programmes have helped us achieve this, you know, in a non-formal way. In the morning the school has a breakfast club where children are able to get a healthy breakfast. In the school day we have fresh milk and fruit which is brought in.” (Teacher 2, School B)
Teacher 1 from school (A) also identified that the promotion of healthy eating is encouraged throughout , many aspects of the curriculum as already addressed in section 2.2 WAG (2008). Both teachers identified that they are part of the national fruit scheme which was discussed in section, 2.2, and implement breakfast clubs which are beneficial to children as also explored in section 2.2. Food choices were also available to the children on school dinners.
Both Teachers emphasised that healthy eating initiatives and policies need to have a whole school approach.
Teacher 2 from school (B) stated;
“…To ensure healthy eating and exercise is top priority within any school it is vital that all staff work as a team and support one another. It is crucial that a whole school approach is evident to make programmes and schemes effective as possible…” (Teacher 2, School B).
Within the interviews both teachers were asked: ‘Since healthy eating programmes were implemented within your school can you see a change in change in children’s diets?’
Teacher 1 from School (A) replied,
“…Yes, the majority of children from this school pay for their school dinners and there are also a large proportion of children who bring in pack lunches. Parents seem to understand that their children need good diets and the school will not appreciate it if children come into school with junk food in their lunch boxes. In general though, parents send their children to school with fresh fruit and healthy lunches…” (Teacher 1, School A)
Teacher 2 from School (B) answered,
“…I think so. Generally children did not come to school and have their breakfast in the morning. Since the breakfast clubs have been introduced more children seem to be coming in for breakfast which is obviously an important start to their day. I think that children are now getting the correct start to the day instead of purchasing a packet of crisps on the way to school. If they don not attend our breakfast club, then I feel confident that their parents give them suitable breakfast before they come to school…” (Teacher 2 School B)
By the teachers responses it is evident that the majority of healthy eating programmes have been effective since they have been implemented within their schools. Although the small proportion of parents are aware that their Childs school is part of a healthy eating programme it could be the misconceptions of what healthy eating programmes are. As both schools are part of healthy eating programmes or schemes.
4.3 Encouraging healthy eating and support for parents
Healthy eating programmes are clearly intended to help encourage parents to take part on their Childs home. As evident in section 2.4 parents are seen as the main educators of their children, it is vital that both schools are encouraging parents to be good role models in relation to their Childs diets.
Effective parent partnerships are vital in terms of good practice addressed in section 2.4. Both Teachers acknowledge the benefit of working along side parents when encouraging healthy eating within the home. Both also identified that sometimes there are challenges as they feel they do not want parents to think they are intruding on them.
Teacher 2 from school (B) stated:
“…Often parents cannot afford to buy their children nutritional meals. My role is to offer guidance and support to parents; I do not want to make parents feel pressured or apprehensive…” (Teacher 2, School B)
Question 2 from Parents Questionnaires;
‘Healthy eating programmes at school are intended to promote healthy eating within the home, what best describes the support you get from your Childs school?’
Parents form both schools felt generally that their Childs school was offering them support with their children. 38% of School (A) described that their Childs settings was giving them ‘excellent support’ and 46% from the same school believed the support to be ‘good’. Only 15 % from this school selected ‘poor support’. 37% of parents from school selected ‘excellent support’, 31% ‘good support’ 18% ‘poor support’ and 12% ‘no support’.
Despite , over 50% of participants from both schools selecting either ‘excellent support’ or ‘good support’, the only support which both teachers mentioned was the support they offer to parents with regards to their Childs lunch boxes or sending leaflets home to parents.
Both teachers were asked the following question within the interview:
‘Do you offer parents support with healthy eating?’
Teacher 1School, (A):
“…The food standards trust has had a positive impact on the way we have worked as a team to try and offer parents support when packing their children’s lunch boxes…” (Teacher 1, School A)
Teacher 2 School (B) –
“…Children who are on pack lunches, we help parents by giving them information on what to put in them.We try to encourage parents to buy healthier options for their children, however we understand that some parents cannot afford to by their children the types of food best for their children, not to pressurise parents on buying healthier meals but it is a slow process, we understand that the majority of parents just cant afford them”. (Teacher 2, School B)
Teacher 1 also said that the school has sent out leaflets which describe all of the food groups to parents or, what nutritious foods they can put in their Childs lunch boxes. They also described that parents are informed on what types of food is available to their children when they are having school lunches for example, the school menu for the week is placed in the reception area so parents know what their children are eating on a daily basis.
Teacher 2 explained that over 50% of children within the school are in receipt of free school meals. This means that parents are not able to afford school dinners for the children themselves. The school try to encourage the benefits of healthy eating to parents but only a small minority of children actually have packed lunches attending this setting so the teacher described that within the setting parents who prepare children packed lunches are encourage but it is sometimes challenging. Because over 50% of the children attending this school are in receipt of free school meals the children are having a large percentage of their nutritional needs met per day. As school (B) is from a deprived area most children may not have the nutritional diet when the get home
Both teachers stated that when they educate children they feel the children can take the benefits of healthy eating home with them. Teacher 2 identified that cooking takes place with the children once a week where the children can learn how to cook fresh simple meals. They believe that if children learn early then it can help them later on in life.
Teacher 1 school (A) made clear that children will often take what they have learnt home with them, which will be beneficial to their parents and parents will learn about healthy eating form their children.
Both schools have roughly the same types of foods on their menus available for children receiving school dinners. The Local Educational authority provides these menus for both schools and children are offered a vegetarian and non vegetarian section. The teacher stressed the importance of children choosing what they want to eat is an important factor.
The teachers believed allowing the children to choose allows them to take responsibility on their selection of food choices. They will also benefit because they can learn to try new things which are introduced to them, which may not be available to the home environment. Both teachers agreed that choice is vital for the children within their settings.
Teacher 1, School A, stated:
…“We feel it necessary there are a range of different food groups on the children’s breakfast and lunch menus as they will be able to choose what they want to eat. Often you find children copy what their friends may have for food. It is a good way of allowing the children the choice to try new things but at their own choice”…
Teacher 2 from School (B) also mentioned the advantages of the children choosing their own food stating:
…“By having a range of options within the menu it allows children to choose what they want to eat and when, instead of just being given something which they are expected to eat”…
These responses from both teachers overlap with the parents responses from the questionnaires. Parents indentified within the questionnaires that they encourage their children to participate within more exercise within the home. Although it is encouraged the children still have the choice to do it or not. Giving children the right to choose is evidently important for both healthy eating and exercise by both parents.
Question 5 from parent’s questionnaires,
‘Have you been provided with specific information about what your child should eatIf yes, have you followed any of the advice?’
76% of parent from School (A) said they had been given specific information in relation to their Childs diets and from School (B) 50%. When asked if they followed the support 80% of parents from school (A) said they did not follow the advice compared to 40% of school (B).
Graph (ii) showing overall percentages responding to questionnaires and parents following the advice they are given in School (A)
Graph (iii) showing overall percentages responding to questionnaires and parents following the advice they are given in School (B)
It is evidential that each parent knew about the advantages of healthy eating for both themselves and their child when asked. 100% of parents from school (A) and 93% of parents from school B declared this, therefore, why the parents are not following the schools advice needs to be addressed.
4.4 Teachers opinions on what they believe effects healthy eating choices
Teachers were asked:
‘How do you think children’s eating habits are influenced?’
Both participants answered that they felt it was in the home. On a broader context parents and environmental factors obviously contribute to this, as the two schools are from two different socioeconomic differences there was clearly a difference in the way the two schools identified this.
Teacher 1, School (A) stated:
…”I feel that parents are educating their children on healthy eating choices within the home. Many parents are fortunate to afford healthy foods for their children”…
Teacher 2, school (B) stated
…“Children have their eating habits influenced in the home and within school. As a school we are educating children on the benefits of healthy eating. At home it is a different setting their home environment, cultures or parents can affect the Childs food choices or the availability of certain foods”…
Both teachers realised that educating parents is important, also making reference to the places and environments where the children may grow up and the influence it has on children’s eating habits.
Question 7 asked to parents:
Could you please describe the main meals you have provided for your child in the last three days?
84% of respondents from school (A) had given their children healthy school meals. School (B), had 87%, which meant that generally, despite the environment and parental influences or differences in socioeconomic areas all parents were providing their children with healthy balanced meals within the home environment.
Discussion of Findings
5. 0 Discussion of Findings
In this section Issues which have emerged running from the current literature and have links with themes from the results are going to be analysed this includes evidence from discussions and communication between participants and their awareness of healthy eating programmes implemented within their place of work or children’s settings.
Generally all participants were aware of healthy eating programmes and initiatives within both schools. This shows that the government are implementing healthy eating programmes and initiatives within settings across Wales.
The Welsh Assembly Government have discussed areas of healthy eating in schools, emphasising that every local authority
‘must exercise its functions so as to promote healthy eating by registered pupils of schools maintained by local education authorities in Wales whilst those pupils are at school or whilst they are engaging in any activity which is incidental to their education and which is organised by or on behalf of the head teacher of that school or by the local education authority.’
(Proposed Healthy Eating in Schools measure, 2008).
However although Participants claimed they were aware on the focus of healthy eating within school settings, participants failed to project their awareness of the importance of exercise as well as a healthy diet, something which is greatly focused upon within healthy eating programmes.
5.2 Effective Parent partnerships
Both teachers emphasised the need of a whole school approach. Something which Robinson (2006) stressing the importance of working as a team amongst other professionals to ensure children’s health is promoted efficiently.
Teacher 1 from School (A) stated, ‘We have to participate within healthy eating programmes as we have a duty to comply with government policies working closely with other professionals is key in making these programmes successful.
Also during the interview, Teacher 2 School (B) stated ‘Our school and staff know the importance of both healthy eating and exercise and found it crucial that we educate our pupils on the benefits’. Clearly within both schools (A) and (B) it is evident that within the settings teachers are ‘exercising its functions to promote healthy eating’ within their settings www.wales.gov.co.uk.
Scott (2010) addresses the progress teachers have made with promoting healthy eating. He stresses not only has it been successful in Wales but settings all over the UK, the importance of healthy diets and improving the behaviour of pupils has also been identified.
This highlights that teachers and professional are educating pupils on the benefits of eating healthily however, Wag (2008) stresses, working alongside parents is one of the major key aspects which is implemented within the curriculum. It stresses the importance of positive parent’s partnerships within the home suggesting that parents also understand that they play an influential role in their children lives with regards to their Childs attitudes or assumptions. Therefore having parents as good role models would suggest if children are taught not only by their teachers but their parents on the importance of a healthy lifestyle it would have a more influential impact upon educating children. This strongly reflects the need for effective parent’s partnerships.
Both schools were aware that their Children’s schools were part of healthy eating programmes, 84% of respondents from School (A) and only 68% from School (B) were aware of the programmes. Although the figures of parental awareness of the programmes are high in both schools there still remains a small figure of parents who are not aware of the programmes within their child setting.
This suggests despite the current emphasis the government has made to ensure schools are making parents aware of healthy eating programmes there is still a lapse in teachers and parents working together and having effective parent partnerships.
Participants from both settings who were aware of programmes implemented overall felt the support they were getting from their children’s teachers was ‘good’. 17% of parents from school (A) felt that they either have ‘poor support’ or ‘none’ from their children’s teachers. If parents are not supported by their children’s teacher this can have a negative impacts which can lead to the parents not having professionals attachments with teachers resulting in parents not being able to trust their Childs educator (Benner, 2009).
Results reflected the need for effective parent partnerships between the home and school environment. The need for working together is highlighted within government policies and initiatives, if there are not effective parent’s partnerships between parents and teachers this shows that one of the main aims of healthy eating programmes is lapsing. Teachers need to help and support parents on being good role models for their children and influencing a healthy lifestyle.
5.3 Educating Parents and parents responses to healthy foods
Despite a high percentage of participants believing the support they get from their Childs teacher regarding healthy eating and exercise was ‘good’, other respondents believed they did not receive support. This reflects that the quality of support parents are getting from teachers needs to be stimulating and effective and the results obtained only suggested the support was ‘good’. Again another small percentage received little or no support and the focus is clearly being on educating the children and not the parents.
As already discussed within section 2.4 where research on the parental influences is discussed, parents are the Childs main educators and have substantial influence upon their children’s diets (Benner, 2009).
Waller (2005) describes if parents know the benefits of healthy eating this will result them giving their children a healthy diet based on the assumption that parents want the very best for their children and are able to provide their children with a healthy diet.
The department of education and skills emphasised how educating parents within the home environment will make them more likely to give their children their recommended nutritional amounts every day.
A study by Horner et al (1998) believed that children react to food by positive conceptualisations e.g. if a parent doesn’t like food then their child will not either, unless they have had positive experiences and have tasted the foods, or opportunities to see and hear others react positively to the foods.
Horner et al (1993) list many studies which show preferences for different foods generated by parental influences upon their children. (Birch and Marlin, 1982; Birch et al., 1987; Pliner, 1982). These studies discuss the relevance parents have upon their children preference for food choices and highlight that much of these preferences are because of experiences children have had regarding the tastings of certain foods.
Manson (2008) emphasises the importance of a child receiving help from a good role model vital in terms of a healthy lifestyle. He emphasises that children will often eat what their parents like and dislike what their parents don’t like.
As all parents realised the potential benefits for themselves and their children to have a healthy diet one would say that parents are following the advice settings are providing them with. However, the majority of parents answered they did not follow the advice which had been suggested to them from their Childs setting.
Where the advice they were getting had come from would of been beneficial to the study as the source can be identified as it is obviously influential on educating the benefits of a healthy diet had been influential to parents.
Over 50% of parents in both schools did not follow the advice which had already been given to them and was not that stimulating to them. This reflects the need for efficient and a high quality of support is needed. Educating parents is vital as children do not control what is being put on the table for them within their home environment; it is usually up to the parents what they choose to feed their children.
If parents are not being educated and having support in being good role models for their children their children are less likely to have a healthy lifestyle in the future, if parents do not like certain foods it is more likely that neither will their children (Pound, 2005).
5.4. Fact or perceived costs of healthy foods.
Generally all participants found that since the implementation and focus upon healthy eating programmes had been implemented it has had positive effects on children. Seaman (1997) believes nutrition to be one of the crucial factors which impacts on the health and development of children, and both teachers felt that children within their settings now have a good diet which influences their development.
However, again without the parent’s partnerships and teachers supporting parents this would not be possible. However, both teachers identified ways in which they encourage parents to cook healthy meals within the home, but cost implications arose from the results which may hinder parents from buying the types of food which is healthy for their children diet.
It is not the parent’s fault they cannot afford to buy certain foods for their children; however it is their responsibility to be good role models for their children. For parents who believe they cannot afford to give their children healthy meals at every sitting this may lead them to feel apprehensive or negative towards their children’s diet as they feel they cannot provide to the needs for their children.
If this is the case it is not the parent’s fault they may not be able to provide to the needs of their children but the cost of buying foods is the initial problem.
This was clearly the case within one of schools involved in the study as the teacher described over 50% of children received free school meals. However, dfrs.gov.uk describes how local authorities ‘now have the duty to provide children with nutritious meals’, which means children are receiving some sort of healthy nutrition in their school day. This benefits all children as Miller and Korenman (1994) reported children living in poor families were more likely to experience deficient nutritional status, and not meet the developmental norms according to their age. Clearly if children are receive a percentage of a healthy diet per day they will develop healthily and not miss any norms of development for their age. However this study should not over exaggerate non-poverty based healthy eating but highlight the need of it is the educating parents on the costs of healthy foods to help them with parenting. Research conducted has shown healthy foods are cheaper to provide rather than un-healthy foods.
The lack of educating parents on healthy eating maybe a result for perceived costs of healthy foods compared to unhealthy foods. Parents may feel that healthy foods are too expensive to buy for them and their children. Barrett (1997: 63) claims a healthy diet is too expensive for families who may have low income; however this research was conducted in 1997 now fourteen years later a lot has changed according to the research which has been conducted closer to the present time
Research regarding the costs for healthy foods conducted by Nelson and Cooper (2003) has highlighted that in fact healthy foods are cheaper to buy than unhealthy processed foods. The study described how supermarkets now take into account economic status where families may live low income households and may find it hard to buy popular brand foods. Supermarkets have now placed more emphasis on making healthy foods more accessible to families and make their own brand names which are affordable for all families to buy.
5.5. Environmental factors on children’s diets
Despite environmental factors and financial status of where families may live were suggested to have influence upon which foods parents could afford to buy for their children, 84% of participants in School (A) and over 87% of participants in School (B) claimed they were giving their children healthy foods within the home.
Nationalarchives.gov.uk states ‘children within a mainstream school should receive a free piece of fruit or vegetables within each school day’. By giving children fruit and vegetables this enables them to have vitamins and a nutritious snack throughout the school day. It will also benefit the parents who may not be able to have access to fruit to send their children to school every day with so it saves them the worries of making sure their child has money for fruit. It is not always that parents can’t afford to buy their children healthy foods but accessibility to foods has had impacts.
Other than cost implications and accessibility of healthy foods, the area and environment where children grow up determines whether teachers felt the healthy eating programmes were successful or unsuccessful. Both teachers responded differently and had perceptions of the families who were from different economic statuses.
Agreeing with environmental factors which influence children’s diets is A study by Gregory et al (1995) which concluded from a study of children who were from less socio disadvantaged backgrounds had less of a healthy diet, and it also concluded that the children had a higher consumption of sugar intake in their diets, opposed to children from working class backgrounds.
It is clear that external factors, may affect individuals, communities and their health status. Morton and Lloyd (1994) discuss factors such as general health, housing, employment and unemployment income and availability of accesses all were factors which affect a Childs diet.
However, as this research was conducted in two different economic status settings, despite what current research had portrayed on environmental factors, no major differences were found between the two schools on what parents are providing for their children.
As the economic status was evident in both schools involved in the study, responses from teachers were different meaning that they were able to make assumptions on how parents feed their children within the home environment.
Teachers positively discriminated against families who were financially disadvantaged opposed to families who were not. They felt that the children were more likely to have an unhealthy diet compared to families who were financially stable.
The only aspect of difference from the study was that more children were in receipt of free school meals in one school than the other which did not lead me to any rich or relevant data.
5.6 Are healthy eating programmes aims failing
Another issue which arose from the results was that healthy eating programmes encourage regular exercise with children and was not being the main focus of the programmes. Educators and parents seem to be placing more emphasis on encouraging children to have an active lifestyle as it is just as important as having a healthy diet according to the healthy eating programmes. This needs to be taken into account to stop another aim from the healthy eating programmes lapsing.
Teachers from both schools elaborated they encourage children more exercise however, the majority of results from parents highlighted they did not encourage their children to do much exercise within the home. This suggests there is not enough emphasis on exercising for children within healthy eating programmes, however, Meggitt.C. (2001) claims that within healthy eating programmes these two main issues are tackled and prevented there a contradiction here as clearly if parents are aware of the importance of healthy diets for themselves and their children, they will also be able to identify the importance of a an active lifestyle.
Harrison and Edwards (1994:76) argue that within the majority of settings there has not been enough emphasised on health education and it has not been seen as a high priority. Clearly this is the case as only diet is being emphasised without the need of an active lifestyle. They believe there are current pressures upon the curriculum and practitioners working in education settings so healthy eating and being active maybe seen as lower priority as a result of more emphasised subjects such as Maths, English and Science.
The study also state many teachers see themselves as ‘ill prepared’, and ‘not equipped’ to educate children on health issues. Young and Williams (1989) also believe pupils may sometimes see health education as ‘moralising or concerned’ with matters of ill health ‘remote from their own lives’. This may be the case however both teachers felt confident when teaching children about health education. However, there were major issues when it came to teachers educating parents.
6.1 Arguments and major findings of study
Prior to the study arguments arose from the literature where claims were made by how environmental factors affect the way parents feed their children. However, from this study no evidence gathered suggested environmental factors have influence about parents feeding their children.
One of the main aims of healthy eating programmes claims strategies when working with parents are put in place to ensure all schools work effectively together. Within both schools this was not the case and parents felt more could be done to offer them guidance and support in health education.
Perceived costs for parents was also explored and without education parents will find that their perceived views of costs for healthy foods are different to the actual cost which is cheaper than processed foods.
6.2 Limitations of study
As the only participants during the study were parents and teachers this was limiting responses as other professionals and staff working closely to healthy eating programmes within schools could have also been involved, this would of added more depth to the study and generated more rich data to analyse.
Kitchen staff would have been an excellent resource to use within the study as their attitudes and opinions as well as experience of these healthy eating programmes would be valid as they are the key workers who provide children with the meals.
As already discussed teachers have a rather busy time schedule throughout their working day. During the interviews it seemed teachers, felt apprehensive and were not concentrating fully throughout due to pressures of children’s work and their own time schedule.
Although a quiet and suitable place was chosen and suitable time, this limited any teacher’s responses during the questionnaires. As we were still in the classroom again it affected the teacher’s responses as it seemed the teachers were under pressure within the classroom environment due to children’s work or duties to be carried out. To overcome this problem in future teaching assistants could be asked about their opinions on healthy eating programmes as Watkinson (2008) describes how they have a less structured time table than teachers, this will irradiate any limitations during the interview. This will mean the same data can be achieved from the respondents rather than disturbing teachers whilst in their job. If teachers responses were key within a study, questionnaires could be used which they could do in their own time which will take the feeling of apprehension and amnesty away.
5.6. Evaluation of methodology
Interviews were seen as time consuming as also suggested by Brewer (2003). Although questionnaires limited some responses from parents they were seen as a successful method to use as they generated relevant and crucial data which has promoted great discussion within the study. Overall using questionnaires produced ‘rich data’ as already discussed by Elsbach & Bechky (2009:9).
Sample sizes were crucial to the study as only 23% of participants responded to all questionnaires given out within both schools. Despite the figures being low from respondents it still allowed the research to be conducted.
Overall both chosen methods for generating and gathering data were seen as successful however, in future research questions need to be derived properly as question seven on the questionnaires, should have been changed. The question needed to be constructed differently to gain richer data rather than influencing an answer from the participant to be social desirability. Parents would only write down the foods which they seen as healthy for their children and didn’t give me an honest account of what their children had eaten in the last three days.
5.7 Action to overcome barriers of healthy eating programmes being implemented successfully and future research
The government are successfully making settings aware of the benefits of healthy eating however, there needs to be a focus on promoting active lifestyles within the programmes rather than persistently emphasising the need of a healthy diet. Both need to be viewed by teachers, parents and children as equally important.
More efforts to encourage effective parent partnerships need to be taken into account as there is no point in educating children about healthy eating when parents are not aware. Parents need to be educated that healthy foods are not as expensive as they may think they are to buy for their children. Parents need to have their perceptions of costs changed and learnt that healthy foods can also be bought on a tight food budget and are accessible to all. This is why the emphasis on working with parents is vital within any setting.
Cost implications were not an issue for parents with perceived foods costs, the quality of support from schools needs to be enhanced so parents do take on board the advice teachers and professionals have given them.
Programmes dedicated to parents only could be implemented within current practice today. Cookery classes, after school clubs, or even breakfast clubs run by parents could be encouraged.
Programmes should also have a holistic approach to a children’s diet and concentrate on a healthy lifestyle, this will then change current programmes being implemented within practice today. Programmes could have personal, social and emotional aspects within them such as ‘Looking after my Body’, ‘why I must look after myself?’ etc. Children could be encouraged to look at different importance aspects of their bodies such as hygiene, fitness and what goes inside their body. It will allow children to see the benefits of healthy eating and exercise and have control of their own learning. It would benefit children as this would be looking at their development and lifestyle holistically
Current programmes implemented within settings exercising with children and improving a Childs life style altogether, this is relevant otherwise aims from these programmes are not going to be achievable.
To conclude this research strongly implies healthy eating programmes are having general success within schools however, more needs to be done to ensure these aims are achievable.
This research suggests that more needs to be done in health education and developing a healthy lifestyle beyond the classroom.
Not with standing any limitations, this research is valid in identifying the limitations which prevent healthy eating programmes implemented within schools from achieving their highest potential.
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