Silence on effect of fish oil for students

EDUCATION bosses have come under fire for failing to report the results of feeding school children fish oil supplements.

EDUCATION bosses have come under fire for failing to report the results of feeding school children fish oil supplements.

Eighteen months after the launch of a widely-published experiment designed to improve the GCSE performances of 5,000 pupils in County Durham, council bosses have remained tight-lipped over whether it was a success or failure.

In September 2006 all year 11 pupils at the county’s 36 comprehensive schools were offered omega-3 fish oil supplements. Dave Ford, the county’s chief schools inspector, said: “We are able to track pupils’ progress and we can measure whether their attainments are better than their predicted scores.”

But although the GCSE results were published last summer, the county has still to say whether the omega-3 supplement had any effect.

The absence of information has led to criticism from education expert Paul Thompson, 61, the headteacher at Cestria Primary School, Chester-le-Street, for 18 years, who now acts as an education adviser. He attended a public meeting at Durham County Hall where he asked councillors: “Has the planned evaluation been carried out and if so, what was the broad result of the evaluation?”

Mr Thompson was told by county councillor Michelle Hodgson: “Our evaluation of levels of take-up and perceptions of staff, pupils and parents will be made public once all of the relevant information from participating schools has been properly collated and analysed.”

She added: “As we have said previously it was never intended, and the county council never suggested, that it would use this initiative to draw conclusions about the effectiveness or otherwise of using fish oil to boost exam results.”

But Mr Thompson retorted: “This was an enormous undertaking, involving thousands of children and co-ordinated by chief schools inspector David Ford. It was trumpeted as a trial and when the issue blew up, the council have been backtracking ever since.”

Comment: Page 10

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