A scheme giving free breakfasts to all primary school pupils in one of Britain’s most deprived towns has been declared a success after a study found it made children happier and more alert, and had the potential to improve attendance and punctuality. This is from the Guardian…
Blackpool council said positive early findings from the three-month pilot had persuaded it to go ahead with a £1.3m scheme to provide a nutritious breakfast of fruit, yoghurt and bread to all of its 12,000 primary pupils for the next year.
The scheme, the only one of its kind in England, was introduced amid concern that many low-income families in the area, particularly those hovering just above the poverty line, were struggling to feed their children adequately before school.
Successive surveys have seen teachers report an increase in pupils who arrive at school hungry, with the result that they were often unable to concentrate and prone to misbehave. The council hopes the scheme will improve pupils’ health and wellbeing and push up academic attainment levels.
Blackpool is England’s sixth most-deprived areas, with one in four working adults claiming unemployment or incapacity benefit – double the national average. A recent study by Sheffield Hallam University (pdf) found Blackpool would be hit hardest by welfare cuts, losing an average £914 a year per working-age adult.
Neil Hodgkins, headteacher of Devonshire primary school, said the scheme confirmed there was a need for free breakfasts in Blackpool’s schools. “Children who had previously had nothing, or very little, to eat first thing are now enjoying a nutritious start to the day and presenting themselves as being livelier, more alert and ready to perform better in class.
“Although it is still early days to be quantifying this in terms of academic results or attainment value, we are seeing other benefits such as improved punctuality and attendance, the development of social skills at breakfast and the good habit of indulging in healthy eating at what many consider to be the most important meal of the day.”
The Welsh government provides free school breakfast in nearly three-quarters of its primary schools. It says the scheme has improved attendance, discipline, behaviour and concentration levels among pupils.
Is this an idea that should be considered for much wider implementation? If it simultaneously tackles growing levels of hunger in children and makes them more productive in school it seems to have considerable potential. Would you like to see a scheme like this available nationally?