Friday, 27 April 2018

Before banning fast food shops near schools, give pupils a reason to dine in

File 20180425 175069 p3a2fb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Wendy Wills, University of Hertfordshire
A ban on fast food shops operating within 400 metres of schools has been called for by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. At a time when nearly one third of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese, this measure sends a strong message to young people and their families, about the importance of cutting down on fast food. Even so, I doubt it would work.

Young people from poorer backgrounds are more likely to go past food shops on their way to or from school, compared with pupils from wealthier backgrounds. Having the opportunity to buy food or drink makes people more likely to do so, so it’s important to consider access to food shops, when searching for ways to encourage young people to eat better.

But many young people go out to buy food before, during or after school at shops further than 400 metres away. Some will run to the shops during their lunch break, to get the food they want. Independent shops, in particular, understand their school-aged customers’ preferences, which are typically to buy something that fills them up quickly, at a price they can afford.

And it’s not just fast food shops which sell goods that are high in fat, salt or sugar; supermarkets also attract pupils with meal deals and other marketing promotions, which means that a group of friends can chip in to buy a multi-pack of donuts, for example, at a price that appeals to them.

Reality bites

If government is serious about enacting this kind of regulation, it would need to extend the ban to all food outlets within an 800-1,000 metre radius of schools. Otherwise, the policy will do little to change where young people buy their food and drink.

Worth crossing the road for, apparently. gruntzooki/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Students from lower income families want their money to stretch as far as possible, so they are canny consumers when it comes to finding the best value chips, crisps or soft drinks.

Of course, this is not the food and drink that public health professionals such as myself would like young people to consume. But the reality is that most teenagers prioritise spending time with their friends over setting out to find healthier food or drink options.

Consulting with caterers

But there’s still a lot schools can do to help. Basic things, such as ensuring tables and chairs in the cafeteria are not broken; providing cool, fresh jugs of water; not pushing young people outside once they have eaten and taking the time to find out what students actually want to eat and drink.

These simple solutions come up time and again in research, and still many schools find it difficult to consult with young people about improving the food and dining environment, in a way that will appeal to them.

The ConversationYet the big companies with contracts to provide food and drink in schools, such as Sodexo, are increasingly willing to spend time producing strategies together with young people. School governors, head teachers and in-house catering staff need to prioritise working with contract caterers to come up with new, inclusive ways of persuading young people that school is the cool place to eat.

Wendy Wills, Professor of Food and Public Health, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

An Alumna’s guide to dealing with procrastination

Hi, I’m Aroona, a University of Hertfordshire Humanities graduate who is currently on a short work placement in the University’s Marketing and Communications department. I wanted to share my experiences today on how I dealt with procrastination while I was studying at the University of Hertfordshire.

The battle of procrastination is always a topic of concern for students - full stop. The fear of failure and the temptation of social media is often associated with why we end up procrastinating when we should be studying.

Procrastination is different to being lazy. It’s the same as saying ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, as opposed to ‘I can’t be bothered.’

I think I paid more attention as a student on trying and failing to deal with procrastination than actively doing things to reduce it.  It was like falling for a sugar rush everytime I sat in front of the computer. I would one minute be watching videos online; the next I would be texting friends; the third I would make excuses I was hungry and tired.

There tends to be an unrealistic perception that to deal with procrastination effectively is to eradicate it completely.  It isn’t something that can be avoided - it can only be tackled. 

Here are a few tips on how to grapple with your procrastination:

Getting started
      For most people ‘getting started’ is the toughest barrier to overcome when dealing with procrastination.  It is normally associated with the term ‘catastrophising’ which means to making a worse deal of something then it really is. To avoid falling into this trap shift your perspective on the long-term benefits of having the job done. Most tasks are tolerable and achievable if you understand why you are doing them and what they can offer you. Remember it doesn’t always have to be perfect first time. It is best to ‘JUST DO IT’.

      I can’t emphasise enough how important and useful this method is. To ensure that you are consistent with your work load rather than inundated at the last minute, it is best to set yourself some mini-goals daily on what tasks you are going to focus on. This helps you to manage your stress better as you are making progress slowly and early in time for the deadline. I found it helpful to make a timetable or write notes on a calendar, so I could have more control in organising my routine. I also would complete my study tasks in short bursts, taking breaks between them to keep myself refreshed and motivated.

Student friendly environment

If you intend to study, then you can make little changes to reflect this in your study space. If you like to study in your room then a personalised and clean environment, such as posters and plants, can help you feel comfortable and inspired. If the thought of your bed is too much of a distraction then going to the LRC is a great place to ensure you study. It also means that there are plenty of resources nearby to use and you are provided with a well-lit and quiet environment.


It is tempting to pull an all-nighter and choose to complete assignments last minute when you should be sleeping. However, sleep is important if you want to study effectively.To sleep easier, it is helpful to fall in to a regular sleeping pattern and have time to wind down and relax beforehand such as taking a bath or watching a movie. If you find sleeping a struggle, then you can contact the Campus Pharmacy or the Student Wellbeing team who will be happy to help.

Be serious

I found that it was important to remind myself that I was at university because I wanted to learn and get a degree in order to secure a job that I loved. This sometimes may mean having to say no to friends or choosing not to go out but working hard now will make it all worthwhile when graduating.

My graduation! All the hard work was worth it in the end. 

Reward yourself 
Imagine how much better you would feel rewarding yourself knowing you have deserved it  
rather than having to acknowledge the guilt you’ve done the same thing by procrastinating. 
For example, you could choose to switch off your phone for two hours of study and reward 
yourself with a favourite treat or drink. It can be anything that you enjoy as long as it is done 
moderately, and you can return to your studying in good time.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Is a placement year for you? – Advice about placement... from a student on placement

Hi, I am Tamsin, part of your Social Media Street Team for Herts and a current Biomedical Science student on my placement year within a hospital. I’m here today to give you food for thought from a students’ perspective, as someone who decided to go on placement myself.

Obviously anyone you ask will tel
l you placement’s can benefit you career wise by helping you gain experience but there are other aspects to consider. SO here are 5 for deciding whether to take a placement year:
Finances - For some a placement year is an excellent opportunity to make money with some companies offering paid positions of 17K however this is very dependent on your course. My placement is healthcare based which tend to be unpaid, as would many other subjects. Don’t forget you don’t pay tuition fees on a placement year and you can still claim for student finance support however for some working full time unpaid work can be a struggle, particularly if you still need travel to placement or live away from home. It will also be an extra year of maintenance loan (if required) that you’ll be liable to pay back once you earn over the threshold. 

Time - Most (but not all) placements are full time work, for students with other commitments, e.g. part time-work, committee members or just those with commitments outside of university, it is a lot of time to dedicate yourself to. If you have a weekend job can you really commit to working a full week at placement and a weekend at work?
No idea what you want to do with your life?! - Although some people know what they want to do with their degree and know what they need to do to achieve it, for others it can all seem a bit confusing. Even if you aren’t completely sure of the path you want to take post-graduating, a placement year is a brilliant opportunity to test things out. I’d personally rather come out of a placement year knowing it was not what I wanted to do in the future than 20 years down the line. 

What placements even are there? - Placements are literally everywhere, even though many great opportunities are advertised on the CareersHub, don’t rely on it, sometimes the best opportunities need to be sought out either through other advertising websites or even just through contacting the relevant people, especially if you’d prefer placements more towards your hometown. Remember to keep an open mind and start looking early, some placements require you to apply as early as January to start in September and don’t forget to attend all the events held at university, they are great places to network with professionals.

For some people the thought of staying an extra year at university is scary, graduating year behind everyone else, another year of finances and renting? Or maybe you want to stay at Herts forever because it’s just that good. 

For me going on placement has only reinforced my enthusiasm for my degree and has enabled me to gain experience to help me with my career in the future, it’s opened up opportunities for part time work that I wouldn’t have accessed to before, but admittedly it has been a struggle in some aspects such as financially and I am sad that all my friends will have graduated by the time I return but overall I am still pleased that I chose to go on a placement. It can suck being a “full time worker” again while everyone else is at Cheeky Wednesday but it’s a sacrifice I had to make… at least there’s always the weekend.

You can find out more about placements at the University of Hertfordshire by clicking on the link. 


A little bit about me… I’m Tamsin, a member of your new University Social Media Street Team. I currently have a lifestyle and beauty blog, and I am currently a second year Biomedical Science student. I’m a pretty bubbly person, so if you see me around say hi! Visit my blog if you like random posts about anything, from makeup to political matters and everything in between.