Amsterdam's Jump-in Programme

Jump-In is a primary school programme aimed at helping schools become healthy places.

One half of Amsterdam’s primary schools now take part in it. This means more than 100 schools. The programme is voluntary and clearly popular. We visited one Jump-In school with a healthy lifestyle advisor Marijke. Amsterdam employs 9 advisors, like Marijke, who are in close contact with schools helping them introduce the changes. The advisors work with headmasters and teachers and can provide resources that stimulate healthy behaviour such as water bottles, lunchboxes, healthy treat booklets, sugary drinks boards, posters, and sports equipment and toys for children to play with outside during their breaks.

To help schools keep track of the changes and stay on target, the municipality developed a scoring sheet. The sheet allows tracking of progress and is a very useful tool for both healthy lifestyle advisors and school staff.

There are eight requirements for a primary school to become a Jump-In healthy school:

  1. Health is a permanent priority.
  2. Children learn about healthy eating and drinking in the class.
  3. Birthday treats are healthy. (In Netherlands, there is a tradition of celebrating birthdays by sharing sweets, chocolates or cakes with the class. Jump-In schools ask pupils to bring healthy treats, such as dried fruit, vegetable and cheese skewers or fruit kebabs. They have developed booklets for parents with ideas for these healthy treats.)
  4. Children are only allowed fruit as their morning break snack and lunchtime sandwiches must be healthy. Only water or milk can be drunk at Jump-In schools. (No school meals are provided in Dutch primary schools so part of the Jump-In programme is advice and support on healthy sandwich fillings).
  5. Information about healthy lifestyle is shared with parents during meetings organised by Jump-In schools.
  6. As active children perform better, Jump-In schools have extra physical education classes given by trained teachers paying extra attention to children’s motor skills and development.
  7. Children are encouraged to be active when playing outside.
  8. Watching out for early signs is important, so Jump-In schools offer an extra appointment to measure height and weight in addition to the two regular ones. If something unusual is discovered, more appointments follow.

When a school wants to take part in the programme, the advisors make sure that all the requirements listed on the scoring sheet are addressed. Marijke said that some schools would choose only to implement certain parts or would implement in phases. For example, some would accept the help for the playground while still drinking sweet drinks and eating junk food without intention to change. The advisors try then to convince them that the children benefit most from the complete package and the schools are only awarded Jump-In status when they meet all 8 requirements.
Marijke cycled with us to one of the primary schools participating in the programme. In the Valentijn School we met Tineke, the head, who took us around the building, showing the facilities and explaining their experience of the Jump-In programme.

The Primary School we visited

A pupil celebrating her birthday brought this healthy treat to share with her school friends

A board prepared by the children, showing how many sugar cubes are in popular soft drinks

In Amsterdam, school meals are not provided, so children have to bring their own lunches. If the school participates in the Jump-In, all that parents have to prepare for their children is fruit and a wholegrain bread sandwich. They can give them plain milk to drink and children re-fill their water bottles at school. ‘Parents like it because the rules are simple and it is cheaper than buying processed snacks for the lunchboxes’, said Tineke. The new rules are not a problem for parents of children starting school but those used to the old ways of giving sweets, crisps and sugary drinks to their children needed some convincing. Schools organise meetings with parents to explain their reasons behind these rules and talk about healthy lifestyle. Explaining the benefits of the changes to both parents and children is a very important part of the work that school staff need to do, and the healthy lifestyle advisors employed by Amsterdam Municipality are helping and supporting this work by providing resources and attending meetings with parents.

We met the head of a primary school participating in the Jump-In programme.

A tap just outside the school provides drinking water for pupils. The Valentijn School is based in the city, so school children during their breaks play on the public square next to the school building. The city of Amsterdam recently invested in providing a significant number of these taps in public spaces: close to schools, in parks, at sports facilities, etc.

We thank Marijke Boevé for letting us visit a Jump-In school.