What is the Healthy Schools Programme?

Essex Healthy Schools is a health improvement programme which supports schools to promote health and wellbeing. The programme aims to engage the whole school community. 

Essex County Council commissions the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service to support schools to use a framework, which enables self-evaluation and quality assurance, to address areas of development and identify good practice.

Our Vision:

The research is clear: a healthy and positive school environment is fundamental to student success and effective learning. It is well researched that a students’ academic achievement is directly linked to environments that support healthy student growth across all developmental pathways: physical, psychological, cognitive, social and emotional.

Across Essex, 88% of Schools are engaged with the Healthy Schools programme and 100% of schools are clear about their commitment to the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Our vision is to create a new social norm for Essex in which it is accepted that:


The Healthy Schools Programme offers an individualised multi-disciplinary pathway and development plan, coupled with an award programme which celebrates best practice in the 6 defined areas of public health.

The Healthy Schools expectations:

PSHE - The statutory Health, Relationships and Sex Education is integrated in an age appropriate, needs led and well-planned programme of PSHE.

Trauma informed and trauma reducing - Policies, culture and actions which are kind, hopeful and relationship building, including behaviour management approaches.

Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing - Whole school approach which includes, but is not limited to curriculum, lunch and break times and behaviour management.  Pupils have the knowledge, skills, language and confidence to seek support for themselves and others.

Physical Activity - Every child receives 2 hours of high-quality PE per week.  There are opportunities for all pupils to be active within our school day.

Food and Nutrition - Food served in schools must meet the school meals healthy eating standards. Pupils are taught how to cook and apply the principles of nutrition and healthy eating.

Pupil Voice - Evidence of active student engagement with representation across all demographics.

RSHE - RE/ RSE and Health Education became statutory from Summer 2021, with the DFE outlining clear guidance for schools on how to deliver the key requirements. These needs should by met through:


Its important schools look beyond just ‘teaching the guidance’ and see it as a starting point to build a robust curriculum, not forgetting that they should encompass wider elements of PSHE not covered in the statutory guidance (e.g. economic wellbeing).

Sex Education - Schools must have a clear, robust RSE Policy outlining how parents are able to withdraw the young person from the sex education element. Parents are not permitted to withdraw the young person from any other teaching element.

Parental engagement in planning, delivering and policy work is key.

PSHE provision is covered in detail as part of a school profile visit.

Healthy Schools Projects:

Healthy Schools Engagement Workers support schools to undertake health improvement projects in/with schools to identify and tackle key health priorities.

Here at Poplar we have undertaken 2 projects, the first to rejuvenate our joint ward and education garden.  This now has the beautiful gazebo and seating to enable us to use it as an outdoor classroom.  We also have themed areas of the garden enabling our staff to deliver Forest Schools education.

Our second project started in May 2021 and was set up to raise the engagement with physical education and this we achieved with the help of visiting instructors from ATF who expanded the range of sports dramatically that we could offer.  They provided the equipment and skills to deliver Yoga, Boxing, Tennis, Basketball, Dodgeball, swingball, circuits and dance.  This qualifies us for the new ‘Best Practice’ Award, which replaces the enhanced Healthy Schools award.

The Foundation Stage

The Foundation Stage enabled us to gain and maintain Healthy School status against a criterion that supports all aspects of health including the PSHE and SRE agenda. It also helps to provide the first step in identifying priorities for Enhancement. We are able to use a locally produced benchmarking tool against which we self-evaluate. We are supported with this process by the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service.

The Foundation Stage is revalidated every two years, again using the benchmarking tool. 

We can choose to stay at foundation level but must revalidate every 2 years and evaluation using the benchmarking document should reflect some progress.

Please refer to Poplar Press within the Student Area


Enhanced Healthy School Award

Enhancement has been designed to help us develop the wider thinking and planning they will need to do in order to achieve better outcomes around health and well-being for children and young people.

It has also been designed to help us to strive for lasting health and wellbeing behaviour changes in children and young people, with particular focus on providing targeted support for those who are most at risk.

The model follows a needs-led, outcomes focused approach to ensure we put in place the most appropriate services and meet the needs of their own children and young people.

This is through the form of a written action plan where we identify two universal outcomes (qualitative and quantitative) and one targeted outcome.

We are supported to achieve this stage through the commissioned coordination service and will receive additional support from the commissioned health improvement services to achieve their targeted outcomes (where available).

The range of support offered to schools includes:

Please refer to Poplar Press within the Student Area


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