Thursday, 10 December 2015

Change to Water - A Moist Proposal

Many parents and students received a letter last week from the school detailing plans to restrict drinks in school time to just water, using the two fatal words, ‘initiative’ and ‘Kaizen’, in the first sentence alone. As well as already spoofing it yesterday, in this article we hope to show how stupid the letter and the ‘initiative’ itself is, as well as how it can be argued that it shouldn’t be implemented, and if it is, how it will still be largely redundant.

Firstly, it was nice to see that the school had changed their definition of what ‘Kaizen’ was since they announced their commitment to it, after our article which pointed out how stupid an ‘initiative’ that was, to ‘practice of continuous improvement’ (from 'continuous change' previously). Although, now they have changed it, they are slightly contradicting the recent ALPs reduction, suggesting the school is no longer improving as much as they were before (and thus not continuously improving). Regardless, the letter states that, after a diktat suggestion from Camden Paid Too Much Health Improvement Team to try and justify their paycheck, Hampstead should ban yet another thing, namely all fluids apart from water (because, of course, we go to a school in constant threat of being blown up mid-air).

Then comes the impromptu Biology lesson on how water is vital to human survival, because evidently most parents were actually born yesterday. They mention that “it is well documented that everyone in society needs to drink more water”, without giving a source to such a claim (to their admonishment by every teacher). We’re not entirely sure what 'society' has to do with it, but it is true that we need water to survive, although too much, like anything, can kill you (so if an SLT tries to water board you and justifies it by calling it ‘hydration’, they might be lying).

They go on to say that “in order to listen to your views and voice any concerns you may have about the proposal” you have the opportunity to be ignored for an hour on Tuesday (just gone). We do try not to be cynical, but given that the school has in the past not listened to students or parents unless they are being quoted by national news outlets, we find it a tiny bit hard to believe they are going to pass up such a good media stunt as this because some of their parents have some reservations about the proposed policy.

To call it a media stunt is a fairly accurate portrayal of what it is; the proposals actually don’t change the normal operations of the school in any great way. They say that “the only beverage allowed outside meal times would be water (plus tea/coffee for staff)”. Currently, students are only allowed water out in class (which happen to take place ‘outside meal times’) and staff are only allowed tea or coffee in lessons; those who are seen with canned drinks in lesson by a rogue SLT member on one of their Lerning Warks are sent a rather strongly worded email slapping them on the wrist. So far, so good. “During breakfast, lunchtime and morning break, milk and fruit juices will also be allowed”, so not really just water, more a change to ‘not fizzy drinks’ thinly veiled in something that sounds more positive. Also, it has been well documented (see, we can do it too. -Ed) that milk makes you sleepier, which is really what you want when “helping concentration”. Seen as what CaterLink already sell are fruit juice drinks (fizzy or otherwise), these plans are unofficially already in place and accepted, with the policy's only addition being milk. It’s less ‘change to water’ and more ‘change to milk’.

The fact of the matter is, if they really outlawed fizzy drinks in school, as they have already attempted to do with energy drinks, students would not simply blindly accept the change, and instead, as they, outside school hours, have the freedom of choice, will choose to buy whatever drinks they want and drink them regardless, in or out of school. By the time a child reaches secondary school, they usually have the mental faculties and parental trust to walk to and from school, and so have the capability to make their own choices as they do so. Outlawing fizzy drinks, as will be the way the school will do it (as opposed to trying to reason with students such that they can make their own good dietary decisions), will only create an even deeper-ingrained black market in school than the one already present.

Back to the letter, and it finishes by mentioning the Hampstead-specific “frequently asked questions on the reverse” of the letter, a logical impossibility since this is the first contact the school have made about the issue, and so no one could have asked, or even frequently asked, anything. The irony is that some of the questions bested their answers, only giving those opposed to the move more ammunition.
They first ask “Won’t restricting pupil’s [sic] choice of beverages affect their hydration?” Then they come out with the fantastic phrase that “there is no evidence that hydration is compromised by a lack of availability of drinks”; try telling that to 20 million desert nomads. They go on to say that water “by law must be freely available to pupils at all times” which is a seemingly forgettable law for Hampstead staff, with water fountains frequently being turned off at break and lunchtimes, especially in the summer, and students not allowed out of class to refill water bottles during lesson times, even though the right to clean drinking water is supposedly something a Rights Respecting School is meant to uphold.

The second question seems to make a valid point, one already alluded to in this article, and hard to counter: “Why introduce more rules? Surely pupils can be educated to make appropriate choices?” After all, this is a school, not a sanatorium for the clinically thick. Their response? “There is no evidence that when pupils are faced with a choice between healthy and less healthy options, they make healthier choices as a result of greater awareness”. Then why on God’s earth do we spend hours of our life in PSCHBSWHBFE and P.E lessons being given a ‘greater awareness’, or education, about a healthy diet? Why was it that last week, thought for the week was “awareness”, if by the school’s own admission it does nothing? They have, in a single sentence, shot themselves in the face... with a cannon.

“What about fruit juice and milk. Isn’t that [sic, P.E Dant was quick to point out that it should say ‘Aren’t those’, since the two drinks are plural] healthy?” There is no denying that, as with water, in moderation they are all healthy, however, the school stick to their water guns “as it is the best and must be available free of charge to all pupils”. Is that why it costs £1 to buy water from CaterLink at the moment, and sometimes impossible to get free of charge (see paragraph above)? Also, the No **** Sherlock award must go to the school for the phrase water ‘is the best for hydration’, since the word ‘hydration’ literally means “to provide water”. They, later on, say also that “water is able to fulfil all hydration needs”, in the same way that air is able to fulfil all respiratory needs.

Once again, the school is not educating, it is not reasoning, it is not thinking further than the next ‘initiative’; it is pulling cheap tricks in an effort to look good in time for the looming Ofsted inspection, even if that means legislating even more against students, taking the easy, instant option, rather than taking time to put in place a system by which they would be able to invoke actual change amongst students and teachers. Change to Water will not generate a healthier school, it will generate a more loathed one.

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