Healthy Habits

According to David Bann, the lead author of a report from University College of London’s Institute of Education that studied 8,400 people, adults who went to private school are less likely to eat take-out meals or watch television than their state school counterparts.
There was a similar difference in healthy habits between students who attended Russell Group universities and those who graduated from less prestigious universities and they also had lower BMI (Body-mass-index). Good job he wasn’t in my independently and Russell Group educated presence last Sunday evening then, especially as I thought BMI stood for Bloomin’ Marvellous Indian (takeaway).

The report went on to say that these findings may be attributable to the fact that private schools have more money to invest into extracurricular activities than state schools do and, “This may help pupils develop healthy habits that benefit them in later life”.

Well in my experience you can take a horse to the most luxurious and best equipped pond in the world but you cannot make it gallop around or perform a worthwhile and healthily balanced exercise programme before it has a drink, if it drinks at all. Yes, one can go through the motions (literally) in a compulsory PE lesson, and in a similar fashion sit through a lesson in any other subject without engaging and so properly benefitting from it. But with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and motivational teacher that is very unlikely.

Perhaps I am unusually fortunate but outside the classroom and after timetabled lessons at Cobham Hall I have observed a whole range of what might be termed healthy extra-curricular activities run by committed school staff. Many of these require little more than some space and that quite often outside. The large proportion of our girls who take part in these activities do so because it is in the culture of the school to do so, not because our grass/floor is more expensive than anybody else’s.

Much of that culture is created by the attitude of the school staff and passed on to the girls through their excellent working relationships with them. This is the prime force in creating the drive for those activities, not the money spent on the buildings housing them or even external staff to run them. Many state schools have good extra-curricular programmes too, again primarily driven by the committed and willing staff of that school. How deeply that culture is ingrained is what may well have the greatest effect on post school eating habits and recreational behaviour.

Healthy body, healthy mind is hardly a new concept but I would suggest both come primarily from healthy attitude and that can even overcome an unhealthy bank balance.


Paul Mitchell, Headmaster, Cobham Hall

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