13 June 2019

A headteacher from the Greater Manchester region has been announced as the latest recipient of the Nominate a Smile award.

Garry Johnson (41) of Lowerplace Primary School in Rochdale, has been recognised for his determination and passion for tackling childhood tooth decay and obesity across the area.

Garry has brought several oral health initiatives into the classroom throughout his teaching career.  All of which have had a positive impact on thousands of children and families.

As well as teaching his pupils about the importance of toothbrushing and a healthy diet, Garry has formed a relationship with a local dental practice who regularly come out to do health checks on the 600 children at the school.

When asked about what drives him to do the work he does Garry says: “In a nutshell I can’t directly influence the life choices made at home as the adults are in charge.  But what I can do at school is to educate and empower our children to take ownership of their own lifestyle choices and hopefully bring about changes to oral health routines at home.

“All that I do is to try and encourage healthier lifestyles at our school and help our youngsters to look after their teeth and mouths in the best possible way.”

Following school dental checks, Garry makes sure the results of each child are reported to the parents, giving them the opportunity to continue their child’s oral health education at home.

Garry has also been quick to act on the overconsumption of sugar in his school, making Lowerplace the first “sugar smart” school in the borough.  It means that the sugar-filled snacks once on offer at the school are now replaced by a number of healthy eating schemes.

A “fruit caravan” is now in operation at the school, with the children using the proceeds from the stall to improve other aspects of the school.  An orchard and “grow your own” area in the school is also in place, with Garry dedicating his summer holiday to improving the children’s knowledge and love for fresh food.

Lowerplace Primary School have also fully embraced the “Give Up Loving Pop” programme, teaching their pupils to consume more milk and water while educating them on the drawbacks of sugary drinks. 

As a result of their success, the school’s children have recently been invited to speak at the local NHS Clinical Commission Board in July.  The schoolchildren will have the opportunity to hold NHS leaders to account for oral health services and healthy eating programmes in the area.

Ruth Bardsley, Public Health Programme Officer for Rochdale Borough Council, nominated Garry for this year’s Nominate a Smile award and describes him as a “health superstar”.

Ruth says: “If you could design a role model, you’d design Gary. He’s totally dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of his pupils. The feedback we get back from children and parents is brilliant and he deserves so much recognition.”

Nominate a Smile is a competition run in tandem with National Smile Month. It seeks to find special individuals from across the United Kingdom who deserve recognition for their role in promoting good oral health in their community.

Speaking about the third winner of this year’s Nominate a Smile, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, adds: “Following Genny Jones and Jo Trevelyan with an equally deserving winner was always going to be a challenge, but I believe we have managed to do so. Once again we had a wide range of fantastic entries and were able to learn about a number of amazing people doing their best to help raise oral health awareness.

“Garry has been chosen as the third winner of this year’s Nominate a Smile competition because of his incredible and selfless work to improve the lives of the children he represents at Lowerplace Primary School. Working tirelessly in and out of term-time, Garry has successfully introduced a number of projects at the school, all with the aim of improving the oral health of his pupils. The Oral Health Foundation is delighted by his dedication and he is a true ambassador for oral health.”

Running between 13 May and 13 June, National Smile Month encourages everybody to brush up on their oral health by recognising the benefits of a healthy smile. The charity campaign focuses on promoting twice-daily brushing, low-in-sugar diets and regular dental visits.

For more information about this year’s Nominate a Smile or National Smile Month, please visit www.smilemonth.org