Healthy lifestyles: What is expected and inspected?


Tony Powell looks at Ofsted’s expectations of a school’s provision for ensuring pupils have healthy lifestyles.


  • The Common Inspection Framework instructs inspectors to evaluate how far children and learners of all ages have knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, both emotionally and physically, through exercise and healthy eating.
  • Healthy lifestyles mean different things for different age groups, and this is explained in the relevant school inspection handbooks.
  • Learners should have a knowledge and understanding of the main dangers to health and the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Learning from the past

Unless yours is a very new school, healthy lifestyles will have been inspected and graded in one of your earlier inspections.
Read through these documents and ask yourself:

  • Have we retained any good practice identified then?
  • What do we now do in addition to this?
  • Would inspectors identify any weaknesses?

The current focus

The Common Inspection Framework instructs inspectors to evaluate how far children and learners of all ages have:

‘knowledge of how to keep themselves healthy, both emotionally and physically, including through exercising and healthy eating’.

This is then interpreted for different age groups.

The main outcome for learners is the extent of their knowledge and understanding of:

  • the dangers to their emotional and physical health posed by issues such as drugs, alcohol and smoking, obesity and lack of exercise
  • the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle in the short and long term
  • how to live a healthy lifestyle
  • how to internalise this knowledge, to understand it and then put it into practice
  • the extent to which the impact on learners is due to the school’s provision.

Groups of learners

Inspection is about evaluating provision and outcomes for all groups of learners and the needs of these groups will vary according to the aspect being inspected. Inspectors will focus firstly on those learners most affected.


Inspectors will consider the extent to which the curriculum is planned to give learners the knowledge and understanding they will need to make informed decisions and to practice a healthy lifestyle within and outside of the school.

As well as the structure and content, they will evaluate the quality of resources and the knowledge and enthusiasm of staff for delivering the programme. Some subjects make a distinct contribution to healthy lifestyles.

The extended curriculum

As well as providing a wide variety of activities, inspectors will evaluate participation in extra-curricular activities such as dance, sport, music and other constructive leisure activities.

Views of parents and learners

It would be useful for schools to include some questions in any surveys undertaken. Statements might include:

  • ‘The school makes good provision for teaching pupils about healthy lifestyles.’
  • ‘In school pupils are encouraged and enabled to lead a healthy lifestyle.’

Inspectors will ask learners for their views both formally and informally, particularly in places such as the dining hall and during after-school activities.

Observations and scrutiny of work

Observations of physical education lessons will provide an insight into the participation rates and quality of physical activity. Scrutiny of books will show what pupils are being taught about, the progress being made and even attitudes towards healthy living. If PSHE folders are sub-standard, it is unlikely that pupils are involved. Inspectors will ask pupils about work in their books to test knowledge and understanding as well as involvement.

Food in school

Inspectors will evaluate healthy eating in school before considering whether this is also having an impact outside of the school. They will take into account the age of pupils, their backgrounds and issues such as peer pressure.

The first point to establish is the uptake of school meals, since these are subject to nutritional standards. Inspectors will explore what advice the school gives about packed lunches, what food and drink should be brought into school and whether pupils and parents follow this guidance.

In considering school meals uptake and other healthy eating choices, inspectors will consider the choices that parents make for their children’s food, and what choices pupils make, both in school and at other times. Inspectors will investigate whether pupils actively consider the choices they make by asking questions such as: ‘Why did you choose that for your lunch?’ They will evaluate the extent to which all groups of learners make healthy choices from the range of food and drink provided in the school.

Physical activity

Inspectors will establish whether the amount of time allocated to PE ensures that all pupils can take part in sufficiently high quality physical education each week. Beyond this, they will want to know about any additional opportunities offered through extra-curricular activities, school sports and even aspects such as walking or cycling to school.

Sex and relationships issues

Inspectors will investigate pupils’ understanding and knowledge of issues, relevant to their age, pertaining to sex and relationships. Inspectors should also consider pupils’ knowledge and understanding in these areas in the context of the approach to sex and relationship education (SRE) taken by the school. This does not mean that the governing body has the choice of opting out of national requirements.

Mental and emotional health issues

Inspectors will gauge pupils’ understanding of the factors which impact on these aspects of their health. They will consider how well pupils respond to the school’s use of social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) materials to develop pupils’ social and emotional understanding and skills.

Pupils with medical needs

An increasing number of schools have pupils with significant medical needs such as diabetes. Inspectors will need to consider whether these pupils, in the context of their particular needs, understand the factors that impact on their health and can apply them to their lifestyle.


Many schools have earned awards for their work in promoting healthy lifestyles and many also have very proud traditions of sporting excellence. Inspectors will accept these as positive evidence for outcomes for learners.


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About Author

Tony Powell

Tony Powell is an experienced Additional Inspector and LA adviser. He writes extensively on education management, but his main work is in supporting schools to develop systems for self-evaluation, school improvement and continuing professional development. Tony can be contacted at:

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