Today Blackpool has become the first council in England to provide free breakfasts for all its primary school children, whilst in London, 50 schools will be involved in a scheme in which free breakfasts are granted to pupils.
In October, Left Foot Forward looked at the evidence of how an increasing number of children are going to school hungry. A survey of teachers showed that more and more schools are using food banks as a means of keeping their breakfast clubs open. Furthermore, only just over a half of schools in the UK have a breakfast club whilst one in ten have had to fall back on food recycling charities.
Shockingly, a third of teachers said that they brought food into schools to feed the pupils who did not have breakfast.
The news in Blackpool and London has been praised by teachers. One head teacher in Blackpool, Neil Hopkins, saw all of his 500 pupils seize the chance of having a free breakfast. He said:
“I think it may have been the novelty of the scheme today but we expect large numbers to come in the future.
“We’re in an area of social deprivation and we have been providing things like bits of toast before – but we expect this will have a very beneficial effect on their learning to avoid them going hungry.
“It will also improve things like punctuality and communication skills as pupils come in at 8.40am for the breakfast and chat to each other before class.”
However, many peoples are still going hungry in the morning. In June, senior GP’s and nurses argued that the government should provide free breakfasts to those on free school meals. Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs said:
“It is sad to hear of so many children being hungry and that lack of family resources appears to be a major contributor to this. As a GP I see poverty presenting in my consulting room on a daily basis and it is important that all governments address child poverty as a matter of urgency.
“Providing free school breakfast to those eligible for free school meals would be a start. Though clearly it would not address the underlying issue of poverty, [it] would at least mean that children from poor families would not jeopardise their chances of learning.”