Health & nutrition – For starters

An accreditation programme in Birmingham helps early years workers to encourage kids to eat healthily and do extra train. Meredith Jones Russell stories

With almost a quarterof Reception-year kids in Birmingham obese or overweight, the Startwell programme was arrange in January 2018 to assist promote wholesome existence in early years settings by bodily exercise and wholesome consuming.

Startwell is an award-based programme commissioned by Birmingham City Council. It permits PVI settings, nursery colleges and Children’s Centres in Birmingham to work in direction of set standards with a view to obtain a Startwell award.

Local childminders can even entry the programme’s coaching classes, whereas the Startwell web site gives sources to all practitioners. All of it’s free.

Startwell group chief Sarah Bates explains, ‘We needed to give you a programme that actually engages practitioners and kids and embeds fundamental wholesome consuming and bodily exercise rules of their on a regular basis routines. There have been already programmes focusing on colleges, however we needed to make this extra relevant to the early years.’

Staff usually lack confidence relating to imparting robust wholesome consuming and train messages, Bates says.

‘Settings usually haven’t defined to kids why wholesome consuming and bodily exercise are essential,’ she provides. ‘Staff have already got a lot they should cowl, and Ofsted doesn’t ask rather a lot about foods and drinks, so workers should not being challenged on it. When messages about vitamin come by issues just like the Public Health England pointers, they’re fairly complicated, not that effectively publicised, and are voluntary. You want a great data base to know precisely what they imply.’


Food coaching classes help workers on subjects resembling weaning, fussy consuming and the mealtime surroundings, whereas settings should conform to Startwell menu pointers for the early years.

Startwell makes use of cartoon characters, together with Two Snacks Max, Fay Five a Day and Active Azra to ship health-based messages, primarily based on analysis linking the usage of characters with younger kids to profitable behaviour modifications, resembling better willingness to eat fruit.

‘Hopefully, it’s catchy,’ Bates says. ‘Although a number of the messages are apparent, when practitioners first begin the programme, they may not know precisely why we now have a personality named 180 Katie, for instance. But as soon as it has been defined that the Chief Medical Officer recommends pre-schoolers spend no less than 180 minutes a day on quite a lot of bodily actions, it’s simpler for it to stay of their heads.’

The award is legitimate for 2 years, so long as settings proceed to offer proof that they’re assembly required requirements.

‘We didn’t need it to be a tick-box train,’ says Bates. ‘We needed it to be one thing that actually did embed. So we’re clear from the start that it isn’t a brief course of. It would possibly take 12 months; it’d take longer. We wish to be certain that settings are assured with it, and that it may be sustained.’

For some settings, workers turnover can pose a problem to getting the award completed. ‘It is usually a large downside,’ says Bates. ‘Everything could be delayed when a lead leaves and all of the work needs to be handed over. That’s one of many causes we wish to be certain that it’s actually embedded; so it’s cascaded down and doesn’t rely too closely on one individual. We need everybody to be upskilled.’

Settings meet with members of the Startwell group each 4 to 6 weeks throughout the accreditation course of, whereas logging progress on-line, attending workers coaching classes and maintaining in contact by telephone or e-mail.

‘It’s essential that we go and witness what is going on in a setting in individual,’ Bates says. ‘That’s partly why it takes time to get signed off, as a result of we wish to be completely certain that actions are actually excessive depth, for instance.’


Since the revised EYFS launched a give attention to oral well being, the programme has registered considerably extra practitioners on its oral well being coaching classes, with round 1 / 4 of kids in Birmingham struggling decayed, lacking or stuffed tooth, greater than the nationwide common.

‘In the coaching we undergo evidence-based apply on issues like toothbrushing,’ Bates explains.

‘We present a number of actions for households to do at residence, and concepts for practitioners to advertise Smiley Shen’s oral well being messages.’


Across Birmingham, 91 nurseries and eight of the town’s ten Children’s Centres have now accomplished the award. Some of those are then invited to finish the programme’s superior award, too.

‘The superior award has standards to stretch settings extra,’ Bates says. ‘We look in additional element at issues like an entire menu evaluation, the out of doors surroundings, or bodily exercise planning.’

A report on the programme by Coventry University discovered that workers in Startwell settings had better confidence, higher workers coaching and higher entry to sources for vitamin and bodily exercise than in management settings.

Bates says, ‘We know everybody engages otherwise, so we attempt to cowl as many engagement routes as doable.’

case examine: The Elms Day Nursery on the University of Birmingham

Staff at The Elms Day Nursery on the University of Birmingham already thought-about bodily well being and vitamin a precedence once they signed up for the Startwell award.

Deputy supervisor Vicki Wall explains, ‘We have been so centered on making certain our youngsters have been getting good meals and did a number of exercise, it appeared a pure development to hitch. I wouldn’t say we would have liked assist, however we felt it could be one thing to set us aside.’

In the method, nevertheless, Wall says workers realized rather a lot. ‘The preliminary coaching positively gave us new methods to take a look at issues,’ she acknowledges. ‘Some parts have been an actual eye-opener, particularly in relation to oral well being, like what number of kids have cavities. Now, after we’re inducting mother and father into the nursery, we at all times ask whether or not their little one is registered with a dentist.

‘Staff generally battle to give you concepts for bodily actions, so it was a pleasant technique to get inspiration, and remind them to hitch in too. The Suzy Startwell character is designed to ensure we’re function fashions in bodily exercise. We made certain workers have been doing yoga and dance classes and solely ingesting water, in order that was what kids noticed.’

Staff developed a ‘talent for the month’ initiative to assist kids’s bodily growth, and undertook an audit of the out of doors surroundings to ensure it was effectively set as much as help bodily exercise. ‘We launched completely different areas for kids exterior,’ Wall says. ‘We’ve now received area for kids to be relaxed and calm, in addition to area the place they’re free to precise themselves. We added rising areas with planters for veg, and completely different gradients.’ 

Using characters additionally helps kids course of wholesome consuming messages, Wall provides.

After receiving the Startwell award, the setting went on to realize the superior award, and the continuing coaching and help from Startwell has been invaluable, Wall says. ‘It offers workers a lot perception and confidence.’

Eating effectively

Xanthi Maragdouaki, an Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP) registered vitamin skilled, discusses making ready kids for having fun with college meals

A key a part of the EYNP strategy is to help early years educators to have interaction mother and father relating to their kids’s vitamin. We usually see round this time mother and father with kids who’re about to go away the early years and start college beginning to consider college meals or packed lunches. These modifications is usually a large problem to established dietary habits, and fogeys usually flip to their trusted early years suppliers for some pointers.

If kids are getting college meals, then there may be the danger that daily they are going to make the identical alternative, relying on what the varsity provides, a alternative that oldsters may not essentially approve of. It is essential to encourage kids to make good, nutritious decisions. Encourage mother and father to pay money for the menu if they’ll and undergo it with their little one, discussing how every meal supplied can profit them. For instance, ‘consuming your protein will show you how to develop and consuming your greens will make your physique stronger’. At the identical time, most colleges additionally supply a ‘deal with’ day. It is essential for kids to be a part of this, so mother and father and carers ought to keep away from demonising meals.

Alternatively, many mother and father could also be contemplating packed lunches. The intention of getting 5 completely different fruit and veggies within the lunchbox is usually a problem, however they need to attempt to supply a balanced, nutritious unfold of these things throughout the week and alternate protein sources from everyday. For the principle a part of the meal, there is no such thing as a must overcomplicate. Some pasta with hen items, hummus with greens and bread, or sandwiches with completely different fillings like cooked fish, egg and meat-free choices. Chicken nuggets, fish fingers and bean burgers additionally make a simple choice in addition to leftovers. If kids choose a heat lunch, these are doable utilizing lunchboxes with an included thermostat. However, general, the message needs to be to attempt to maintain lunchboxes easy, various and vibrant.

A constructive angle in direction of meals primarily based on good foundations is a robust predictor of wholesome vitamin habits later in life. Most importantly, lunchtime can be a giant a part of college life, so it’s essential for folks and carers not solely to give attention to what kids eat but additionally on whether or not it was a enjoyable time and if they’d any fascinating discussions with their associates. Lunch must be nutritious but additionally pleasurable!

If you want to talk about any of the problems raisedin this column or another matter round early years vitamin, please contact Jonathan Lucas at hi [email protected] to rearrange a dialog with one of many EYNP’s registered vitamin professionals. For extra data, see

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