When it comes to a child’s sugar consumption, what’s legally required, what do Ofsted inspectors look for, and how does the SUGARWISE scheme work?
With over 2,000 schools signed up to SUGARWISE, and increasing demands on their budgets, we look at what’s legally required, what Ofsted inspectors look for, and how the SUGARWISE scheme works?
The SUGARWISE catering mark scheme was launched on 24 June 2019 in the UK and since then, over 2000 schools have signed up, around 10 per cent of all UK primary schools.
Experts in regulation and child nutrition stand behind the SUGARWISE scheme. This includes Stephen Pugh former head of labelling at Defra and head of research at the Food Standards Agency and expert on obesity from Cambridge University, Dr Giles Yeo.
There are no legal requirements for sugar consumption or its reduction, but there are government guidelines that children should consume no more than five per cent of their daily calories from free sugars.
Furthermore, the Department for Education has launched its Healthy Schools Rating Scheme, a scheme supported by LACA that schools can voluntarily apply for. The law does require compliance with the School Food Standards for all maintained schools. Ofsted inspectors look for independent accreditation to demonstrate both the satisfaction of these requirements and “going above and beyond”.
Working with the SUGARWISE catering mark scheme enables schools to tick all these boxes with one certification provider in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Catering companies that work globally can do so in all the markets in which they operate, while independently verifying compliance with local regulations. The quality mark communicates to all markets and nationalities in a uniform way and references public health guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Catering marks cost money, how will SUGARWISE reduce costs?
Catering marks do cost money but are a great way of independently demonstrating compliance with legal regulations as well as communicating a school’s holistic commitment to pupil health. A school using a SUGARWISE caterer is eligible for a Whole School Award. SUGARWISE does not charge any per school fees related to its Whole School Awards which allows use of the SUGARWISE logo on the school’s website and marketing materials. The certification was designed from the ground up to include what is legally required, what is consistent with public health advice and to provide a demonstration of going “above and beyond” at minimal expense for the caterer. This means that the “bangers per buck” obtained from the school are far greater and there is no pressure from already stretched PTAs to help support funding for the scheme.
SUGARWISE enables schools to demonstrate independent accreditation in a manner that represents modern best practice at minimal cost.
How does SUGARWISE relate to the Department for Education Healthy Schools Rating Scheme?
As part of the Childhood Obesity Plan, but in this case voluntary, the Department for Education has launched a Healthy Schools Rating Scheme, now in Beta phase. This is a self-certification schools can participate in and communicate with parents and Ofsted inspectors. The scheme covers both primary and secondary schools and is based on a point scoring system which gives bronze, silver and gold awards based on survey answers. For Food Education SUGARWISE can help provide compliance on the 10 points needed for gold or silver. For the School Food Standards element, SUGARWISE can help provide compliance on 15 of 25 points, with the school having discretion to add governor oversight and a nutrition policy to achieve a point score maximum of 25.
Schools with a total score of 70 points are eligible for the gold certificate. As well as independently evaluating if schools have met the certificate criteria, the SUGARWISE certification assists in ensuring that thresholds are met to achieve gold for the Food Component of the Healthy Schools Rating Scheme.
What does Ofsted look for?
Sean Harford, Ofsted’s national director of education said: “Inspectors will look for evidence of a culture or ethos of exercise and healthy eating throughout their entire inspection visit in classrooms as well as in the school canteen. They will look at the food on offer and visit the canteen to see the atmosphere and culture in the dining space and the effect this has on pupils’ behaviour. Inspectors will also speak to school leaders about how they help to ensure a healthy lifestyle for pupils by helping them gain knowledge of a good diet.”
As part of their training, inspectors are also being asked to look for external accreditations from quality assured schemes. As stated in the Ofsted Common Inspection Framework Ofsted inspectors look at the extent to which schools and other providers are successfully supporting pupils to gain ‘knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, including through exercising and healthy eating’. The addition of this to the inspection framework (as opposed to the guidance) means that inspectors are expected to place a greater emphasis on this issue than before.
A SUGARWISE Whole School Award gives Ofsted inspectors evidence of a health-promoting food culture for the school.
What are the SUGARWISE standards based on?
WHO recommends that children and adults should have no more than five per cent of their total energy intake coming from free sugars.
The five per cent guideline has been translated to be no more than 19g per day for children aged 4-6 years and no more than 24g for children aged 7-11 years. As there are no risks from consuming too few free sugars, since the calories they provide can be better obtained from other sources (e.g. protein, starchy carbohydrates and healthy fats), Sugarwise’s primary school standards have been based on the recommendation for the four-to-six age group.
According to the Caroline Walker Trust’s breakdown of energy across the day, a school lunch consisting of a main meal and a dessert should equate to 30 per cent of total daily energy intake. This has been used as a guide to determine what proportion of the maximum limit of free sugars should come from a school lunch.
How does a caterer get certified?
Sugarwise uses submitted recipes to calculate the free sugars content of meals (as an estimate) and determine whether or not they comply with the guidelines.
Schools and catering companies that meet the standards can demonstrate that menus have been independently verified in line with domestic regulations and international public health advice.
Broadmead Primary School in Croydon is one of Nourish Contract Catering’s 130 schools to be signed up to the SUGARWISE certification scheme. This means that one day a week, children having a school lunch will have no free sugars from their meal; also known as a SUGARWISE day. The desserts options include either fruit, yoghurt or a pudding containing no free sugars.
It doesn’t ask for puddings to be removed completely as Sarah Hunter, head teacher of Broadmead Primary, explains: “Having pudding in school, partly it’s expected, but for some of our children we know that that’s the only meal they have during the day.”
Staff from Nourish created and tested new recipes for dessert options that didn’t contain any free sugars, such as the SUGARWISE Cinnamon Muffin. Only outcomes that gained approval from the Nourish team can make it onto the menu.
Annette Ryan-Murphy, managing director of Nourish, said: “We’ve found the scheme has been very easy to implement and well received in the schools we have presented to. From next year Nourish will be serving a further 15 schools, taking our total up to 130. It is great to see Head Teachers and Local Authorities really embrace this initiative and we are proud to be the first to be awarded the SUGARWISE mark for our Primary School menus.”