No more junk! Are we invading children’s privacy or taking care of the future generation?

Children are always smuggling into their school bags the most sugary treats without their parents/carers knowing – this is nothing new. As a teacher myself, I too am guilty of a biscuit (or 4) during the school day. But, do schools have the right to look through students bags daily and confiscate the one thing they look forward to all day? Here at KeySkills Education, we have spoken to teachers, parents and students about this debate and have had some interesting findings…

Charles Dickens School in Kent, Broadstairs, is the first school to confiscate sugary treats from children who are smuggling them in which was announced on their website before the New Year. Pupils at Charles Dickens School are having their bags searched through by teachers, as the school imposes a total ban on fatty snacks, energy drinks and crisps. Children caught taking sugary treats into school will have their snacks confiscated on entry and won’t be returned.

The head teacher said: ‘Eating healthy is part of the School’s PSHE programme of study for students and supports students ability to concentrate, learn and behave well. We noticed a deterioration in concentration, learning and behavior, particularly from students bringing in large packs of unhealthy food and drinks’.

So, just how bad are these sugary treats? One bar of snickers chocolate has 488 calories and a can of coke has a massive 39g of sugar. Research has found that a diet rich in  sugar reduces the production of BDNF, a brain chemical known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor . Without this chemical, our brains can’t form new memories and we can’t learn (or remember) much of anything. It follows that this can in fact affect children remembering what they have learnt at school. Since the ban, there claims to be a significant improvement in student concentration, attitude to learning and improved behaviour. So, surely this is a good thing?

Linda Barnes, a mother of 5 said: ‘If children are learning more and have more concentration then I don’t see the problem in Teachers confiscating the food. We all want our children to do their best at school and if this is a way to do that then I don’t see a problem in it. All schools should probably do the same. They are in the care of the teachers after all, so they should follow their rules.’

Some thoughts differed. A mother from this outstanding school wrote on Facebook: ‘I have one child in this school and one who is older. My main concern is that my child is in a safe environment with assistance. When needed he has chocolate and I am not going to stop that. He is perfectly healthy. The school is becoming more like boot camp every day. If this is the only way teachers can show authority then the system is bad.’

The Telegraph recently reported about Britain’s tooth decay epidemic which saw around 170 youngsters have teeth extracted in hospital every day last year. And what food was blamed for this ‘oral health crisis’? Sugar.

The Telegraph continued by saying new NHS spending data shows there were 42,911 hospital procedures to remove multiple teeth from patients aged 18 and under in 2016-17 at a cost of more than £36 million. So, surely this school is doing the right thing?

A Teacher from Barnet, North London, said: “I don’t think it’s right looking through children’s bags at the beginning of the day. It wastes valuable teaching time and I don’t actually want to look through hundreds of bags every day. However, it is clear that something needs to be done about sugary snacks. I believe this all begins at home. Parents need to take an active role in teaching children about right and wrong foods and the government needs to make healthier food cheaper so parents can support healthy eating at home.”

Sixteen Year old GCSE student Brian from London said: “I will never go through a teacher’s bag and take away their crisps and biscuits so I don’t see why they need to be nosey and look through our bags. It’s a bad start to the day and they should trust us not to bring any in in the first place.”

So, it is clear we have a ‘health crisis’ here in the UK with tooth decay on the rise in under 18s and there is some evidence to suggest too much sugar can affect children remembering what they have learnt at school. But, teachers already have lots of things to do daily without adding policing to their daily workload! So maybe teachers need to stop policing children and focus more on what they do best – teach!

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