Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Head deserves top marks for junk war

It is understandable that some shopkeepers in Ballymena are annoyed because the headmaster of a school in the town has been stopping pupils entering the stores to buy sweets.

Times are hard for retailers and every customer is valued. Traditionally schoolchildren have provided a good source of revenue and naturally the shopkeepers want to retain their custom.

But headmaster Sean Rafferty also has a valid point of view. He wants pupils to come to school and have a healthy breakfast rather than eat junk food outside. It also means that the pupils are in a safe environment where they can be supervised and can concentrate on their work. His arguments are compelling and show that he is a teacher with the best interests of his students at heart.

In schools today many teachers complain about the pressures of their job, how they are shown little respect by many pupils and little support by many parents. But Mr Rafferty is taking a pro-active approach by setting pupils a good example, by encouraging them to think of their own well-being and safety and by adopting a hands-on approach to his job.

It is easy for head teachers to get bogged down in the administration of their schools and have little day-to-day contact with pupils and it is refreshing to see one headmaster adopt a different approach.

Headmasters exert enormous influence in their schools, both good and bad. Those who are determined to make their classrooms the best possible environment for their pupils can reap enormous personal satisfaction from knowing that they are giving young people a good opportunity to realise their potential.

They can also transform the fortunes of the school and make it one which appeals to both parents and pupils. Mr Rafferty deserves credit, not brickbats, for his initiative and for encouraging his pupils to value themselves and their health. He may not be as famous as chef Jamie Oliver, who campaigned for healthier food in schools, but he has made as big an impression in his own area.

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