How else to avoid your blood-pressure shooting through the roof as the media – both social and traditional – ignore 99% of your work and misrepresent the rest?
For the latest example, look no further than the School Food Plan, a 149 page practical guide to improving the health and attainment of young people by improving their diet in school. It’s full of interesting research and good advice. It has a number of recommendations for Government. Most have been accepted. The one that hasn’t been is to make school meals free for all pupils – a good idea in principle, ministers say, but they’ll struggle to find the money.
Is that what the public conversation has been all about? I think you can guess.
For most of Friday I found my Twitter feed full of people outraged at a Big Brother-style Government plot to ban packed lunches. Depending on their point of view, it was an attack on parental freedom, Gove trying to sell off school meals to his wealthy mates, or some other theory about the evil Coalition Government.
There’s only one teeny problem – it’s utter rubbish. There is no such proposal in the report. Nowhere does it suggest the Government bans packed lunches, or even that schools ban packed lunches.
Here’s all it says (this is one of 38 recommendations and you can see it on page 136 of the report).
Make sure packed lunches are not a ‘better’ option. Ban sugary drinks, crisps and confectionery, or offer prizes and other incentives for bringing in a healthy lunch. Some schools ban packed lunches outright. If you want to do this, try starting with your newest intake (pupils in reception or year 7). The ban will then apply to all the years that follow them, until it extends to the whole school.
That’s it. No new rule. No Government diktat. The report points out that schools already have the power to ban packed lunches, that some schools have done so and gives advice to any others which might want to go down that path.
“So they must be banned, he says. Not improved. Not guidelined. Not discussed. Just banned, like thought in China.”
it’s not entirely true. If we’re being honest, it’s not even very slightly true. It’s someone who either hasn’t bothered to even skim through the report they’re writing an article on, or feels minor details like the facts to be an annoying inconvenience.
You can read the report summary here and the full report here. And if you’re writing something similar for Government at the moment, I believe the Amazon rainforest can be very nice at this time of year.
* Councillor Iain Roberts is the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council