Mayor calls for ‘water-only’ schools to help reduce childhood obesity

Monday March 2nd, 2020

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has urged all London’s primary schools to become ‘water only’ in a bid to tackle childhood obesity across the capital.Childhood Obesity

Sadiq called on boroughs to follow Southwark’s example and increase access to water in primary schools as he visited Tower Bridge Primary School to announce that all Southwark primary schools have a ‘water-only’ policy.

Making water freely available and introducing ‘water only’ schools – where just water and low-fat milk are allowed as drinks – was one of the ambitions of London’s Child Obesity Taskforce. To support schools the mayor also launched a new ‘water-only schools toolkit’ developed in partnership with Public Health England.

London has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe with almost 40 per cent of children in Year 6 overweight or obese. The Mayor created the Taskforce in 2018 to help develop ideas that would reduce these levels and close a health inequality gap. Some of the highest levels of obesity are in the most deprived areas of the capital.

The Mayor wants to halve the number of children living with obesity by 2030 and has already taken bold action including advertising restrictions on the TfL estate, proposals in the draft London plan to prevent new fast food outlets within 400m of schools, introducing an unprecedented focus on walking and cycling, and a Healthy Early Years London programme improving health and wellbeing in schools.

The independent taskforce worked with lead partner Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, as well as Public Health England, The Association of Directors of Public Health London (ADPH London) and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services London (ADCS London), to set out a series of wide-ranging calls for action across all aspects of life in the capital, including the NHS, the government, London boroughs, the Mayor, schools and the food industry.

The Mayor today responded to the taskforce’s recommendations and outlined how he will continue to support the ambitions through his wide-ranging work. He also said he would call for schools to be water-only, write to Ofsted to ask they encourage schools and pre-schools to encourage healthy diets, water and physical activity, and invite representatives from water companies and the advertising industry to form a new partnership group to consider how to encourage children to drink more water.

Sadiq unveiled the plans as he joined London’s Child Obesity Taskforce chair Paul Lindley to meet pupils and staff at Tower Bridge Primary School.

Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, said:

“It’s high time we faced up to the reality that our city has a child obesity problem and I’m clear that we all have a role to play in helping Londoners make healthy choices. Making water freely available and introducing measures like ‘water-only’ in schools are just some of the simple things we can do to not only tackle childhood obesity, but also improve pupil behaviour and learning. I’m urging all schools in London to follow Southwark’s example and adopt the policy to help improve the life chances of all young Londoners.” 

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