Once upon a time, it was seen as a bit of a tradition that children celebrating their birthday on a school day had the chance to share a sweetie with their classmates. Then, it became the thing to do to go for Healthy Schools awards and many schools, us included, felt they had to ban this tradition.

We’ve been asked about this quite a bit recently and have been pondering it. As staff, we all enjoy sharing a birthday treat with colleagues in the staff-room. Is it not a bit hypocritical to deny children the same joy?

We think that recognising an occasional treat, rather than just being told something is banned, is a better way of encouraging healthy, balanced choices in life.

So, with immediate effect, children will be allowed – at their own parent/carers’ discretion – to bring in a birthday treat for their class.¬†

We urge that this is a small treat – a sweet or choc from a bag – to be handed out at the end of the day.

We ask parents/carers to recognise that we have children with nut allergies and even more children who cannot eat animal products, particularly pork gelatin. For inclusion, it would be great to bring in alternatives for such children in the class.

We are mindful that some families may not wish or may not feel able to do this, for example due to cost. We will make it very clear to children in advance that birthday sweets are a choice, not an expectation.

Teachers will check the ingredients on packaging and will withold a sweet from a child if they are in doubt it is OK for them. Teachers will keep a supply of nut-free, gelatin free (Hahal) sweets to give in such cases.

We recognise that some parents might not want their child to have a sweet on such occasions. In this case, we would encourage parents/carers to let the class teacher know either on the playground, by email, a written note or at the forthcoming teacher meetings. They can then start to keep a list.

This rule change does not affect what we consider to be suitable for a child’s snack during the day, where we continue to encourage healthy, low sugar, low fat, low salt snacks, along with water to drink. We strongly feel there is a difference between a birthday treat and the ‘everyday’. Similarly, we encourage packed lunches to be well balanced and to meet the recommendations of the British Nutrition Foundation and the Government: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/putting-it-into-practice/make-healthier-choices/healthy-packed-lunches/

Our own school meals have to meet strict nutritional standards and packed lunches should reflect similarly:

Food served in all maintained schools and academies in England must meet school food standards so that children have healthy, balanced diets.

These standards make sure that school lunches always include:

  • one or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day

  • one or more portions of starchy food, such as bread or pasta every day

  • a portion of food containing milk or dairy every day

  • a portion of meat or poultry on 3 or more days each week

  • oily fish once or more every 3 weeks