Ballybrown National School is awarded Health Promoting Schools Flag

A happy group of children from Ballybrown NS with their Health Promoting Schools Certs

A happy group of children from Ballybrown NS with their Health Promoting Schools Certs

The end of the school year is a time of celebration as children progress from primary to second level and achievements are acknowledged. Ballybrown National School received good news recently when they were notified that their efforts over the last two years had been rewarded with the awarding of the Health Promoting Schools Flag. The 

Health Promoting Schools’ (HPS) Flag’  is presented by the HSE to schools as an acknowledgement of their work in improving the health of their school communities. The Health Promoting Schools programme supports schools to focus on health and wellbeing and involve all members of the school community. Over a period of 2 school years, in consultation with all members of the school community, schools develop an action plan to address their chosen priority health areas. Schools are guided to address these through a whole school approach covering the areas of the environment – both social and physical, the curriculum, school policies and partnerships. Schools work at their own pace supported by the HSE Health Promotion and Improvement Department. In each school, a HPS coordinator and HPS team lead out on the progression of health and wellbeing work.

‘We were fortunate that Katie Gibbons, who teaches fifth class, took on the role of project coordinator and she mobilised an army of volunteers,’ said Joe Lyons, who is Principal of the school. ‘The first step was to form a committee of parents and pupils to look at how we could involve the school community in our efforts to become a Health Promoting School.’

A meeting in the school in February 2015 attracted over 50 parents who were addressed by Mairead Kelly from the Health Promoting Schools Department of the HSE. After that a committee was formed and all areas of school life were under the microscope. The Healthy Eating Policy was reviewed and tweaked. Healthy eating workshops for both children and parents were organised. Dietitian Christine Gurnett visited the school to speak on healthy eating. Parent Yvonne Deegan, who works in the area of healthy eating, staged numerous cookery demonstrations. Projects such as Food Dudes were undertaken. Daily exercise was blended into the timetable of each school day.

‘The links between healthy lifestyle, academic achievement and good mental health are irrefutable’, according to Joe Lyons, ‘and schools have a huge role to play in promoting good habits among children at a young age that will stand them in good stead for years to come.’

Principles of a Health Promoting School include:

• Promoting the health and well-being of pupils

• Enhancing the learning outcomes of pupils

• Upholding social justice and equity

• Providing a safe and supportive environment

• Involving pupil participation and empowerment

• Linking health and education issues and systems

• Addressing the health and well-being issues of school staff

• Collaborating with parents/guardians and the wider community

• Integrating health into the schools’ ongoing activities, curriculum and assessment standards

• Setting realistic goals built on accurate data and sound evidence

• Seeking continuous improvement through ongoing monitoring and evaluation.