A survey conducted in 2002 by Dr Trevor Brocklebank of St James’s University Hospital in Leeds showed that 50% of children drank nothing at all in school. He commented that “There is no encouragement to drink – in fact there is active discouragement because they [teachers and teaching assistants] don’t want the children to miss out on their lessons by going to the toilet. But they forget that they won’t be concentrating if they are dehydrated.”
The importance of drinking water
Water provides a healthy alternative to soft drinks, which are often high in sugar, caffeine and additives. It can help prevent health problems including headaches, bladder and bowel problems and cancer.
Providing easy, well-supervised access to drinking water should help improve learning. It has been shown that mental performance is improved by frequent intakes of small amounts of water. In contrast, thirst decreases mental performance levels by 10%. Evidence shows that pupils concentrate better when not distracted by feelings of dehydration, such as thirst, tiredness and irritability – and pupils who are tired, lethargic and irritable (as a result of dehydration) are less able to learn, less amenable to normal routines and more likely to behave inappropriately.
The recommended daily amount of fluid for ten-year-olds is two pints per day, rising to six pints if they are exercising or in hot weather.