Medical research indicates a prevalence of approximately 1 per cent for both anorexia and bulimia nervosa among adolescent females, with most new cases diagnosed in mid‐ to late adolescence. This age group embraces the upper end of the secondary school population. Based on the current prevalence rates, it is likely that in a typical comprehensive school of between 1,500 and 2,000 pupils, up to 20 could have an eating disorder. Larger numbers of pupils will have developed some of the symptoms of an eating disorder. These may include restricting food intake, weight loss, self‐induced vomiting, chewing and spitting out food, and bouts of chaotic overeating. While these do not constitute all the symptoms necessary to make a diagnosis of eating disorder, they may be regarded as either a “subclinical” variation of the illness or the early manifestation of an eating disorder. For many pupils, the antecedents of an eating disorder will be in place at a very young age. The number of pupils suffering from eating disorders and the long‐term co‐existing diseases (such as osteoporosis) which develop as a result of them raise a number of important issues for schools and teachers working with secondary school aged‐pupils ‐ particularly, the role schools and teachers should play in the prevention, early detection and intervention of eating disorders.
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