1m academy and free school pupils ‘could be eating unhealthy lunches’

More than a million children at academies and free schools could be eating unhealthy lunches because those institutions are exempt from tough food standards, council leaders have warned. This is from the Guardian…

Academies and free schools which opt out of national regulations are failing in their moral duty to ensure pupils receive healthy dinners, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The association has made a fresh call to the government to introduce a single national standard that applies to all schools to ensure that all pupils can eat a healthy lunch.

The move comes ahead of councils taking over responsibility for public health from the NHS, including tackling childhood obesity.

David Simmonds, chairman of LGA’s children and young people board, said: “School autonomy is supposed to drive up standards but in the case of school meals, we now have a two-tier system where one type of school can effectively exempt pupils from healthy choices and instead sell fatty and sugary foods. This threatens to seriously impact on the health and educational attainment of our children.

“We now need government to do its part by introducing an acceptable food standard that will allow councils to hold all schools to account for the nutritional quality of food they serve their pupils.”

Under the current system, academies and free schools do not have to adhere to the same nutritional standards, introduced by the last government, that apply to other state schools.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, believes that giving these schools the choice to opt out gives them the freedom to do what is best for their students and claims there is no reason to believe these schools will not provide meals that meet the regulations.

But campaigners, including TV chef Jamie Oliver, have raised concerns about the exemption, suggesting it will put children’s health at risk.

Research published by the Children’s Food Trust last year found that over one in four academies offer crisps and savoury snacks and around one in six provide chocolate and sweets, while one in 12 provide fizzy or energy drinks.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said that if the LGA had evidence of academies providing poor schools, then it should release it.

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