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Government website under attack

The UK's leading oral health charity has hit out at a government website for encouraging teachers to 'bribe pupils with sweets'.

The UK's leading oral health charity has hit out at a government website for encouraging teachers to 'bribe pupils with sweets' as a reward for good behaviour.

The British Dental Health Foundation says that it was 'shocked and appalled' to find that the popular Teachernet site is providing advice that could potentially lead to thousands of children suffering with decayed teeth.

The website, which provides advice for teachers on managing the behaviour of pupils, suggests offering sweets alongside house points and badges as an incentive or reward for good behaviour.

However, the Foundation, providers of free and impartial dental advice to the public, say that sugary foods should be limited to mealtimes wherever possible and rewards that could affect a child's oral health should never be given in school.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, commented: "To find that the government is actively encouraging teachers to provide children with sweets in school is a big shock and  very disappointing.  "Sweets are a major cause of tooth decay - a problem which affects around half of children under the age of 10. It causes a lot of pain and discomfort and can be very distressing for both children and their parents.

"Many parents work hard to ensure that their child has a healthy, balanced diet when they are at home so it is completely unacceptable that they could have their good work undone while the child is at school of all places!"

The criticism will come as a blow to the government, who recently pledged an extra £280 million to tackle the 'school meals crisis' after being embarrassed by Jamie Oliver's TV Show and petition.

Healthy food in schools is one of the government's key election promises, but the Foundation warns that the message must be applied across the board if it is to prove successful.  Dr Carter continued: "The government needs to ensure that they are giving out a single clear message that sugar and sweets are bad for your health.  "Their pledge to cut the amount of sugar, salt and fat in school meals was a welcome development, but it is no good if they are simply going to undo that good work by encouraging unhealthy snacks between those meals.

"I sincerely hope that the government will take a look at the website and reconsider their advice as this is simply not acceptable."

2nd September 2008

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