Free School breakfast clubs boost learning


According to a recent report in The Guardian, a study into the outcomes of free school breakfast clubs in primary schools determined that they are boosting maths and literacy results. Apparently, the improved outcomes included pupils who didn’t even attend the breakfast clubs, as a result of an overall improvement in the classroom environment.

The study published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), with the support of the Magic Breakfast charity, coincides with the Department for Education’s significant interest in the relationship between nutrition and school attainment. The findings suggest that money spent on free breakfast clubs may be more cost effective and productive than the current funding of free lunches for disadvantaged children.

Breakfast clubs boost reading, writing and maths

Researchers from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the National Children’s Bureau carried out an independent, randomised controlled trial of free breakfast clubs across over 100 schools. A total of 8,600 children took part in the trial. Parents of the selected schools were encouraged to send their children to the free breakfast clubs. Kids were able to choose between cereals, porridge or bagels.

Results showed a significant improvement in attainment levels across reading, writing and maths, with Year 2 children making 2 months additional progress compared to those in similar schools without breakfast clubs. The EEF point out that the attendance itself is equally significant to the results. As well as the nutritional benefits of the food, the social benefits of the breakfast environment could be equally instrumental in any educational improvement.

Obesity and breakfast

A recent NHS report reveals that nearly 10% of children in their first year of primary school in England are obese. The figures, based on the latest annual measurements of children’s body mass index (BMI) also exposed a growing class divide. A report in The Guardian revealed that “obesity prevalence for children in reception living in the most deprived areas (12.5%) was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas (5.5%).”

While the government have committed £10m a year spend on healthy breakfast clubs in a bid to tackle childhood obesity, some commentators feel there has been insignificant action. Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “Our nation has hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity. The trend over the last decade is showing no signs of slowing down, and this worrying news is something that could have been prevented with more government action.”

Breakfast is an important tool in tackling obesity. Children who eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to snack on unhealthy items throughout the day. Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:  “The fact that there are children that will go to school hungry today is a national scandal. Offering free breakfasts at school is a relatively cheap and straightforward way of alleviating this symptom of disadvantage.”

There are multiple benefits in getting children to eat a healthy breakfast, and that includes both health and attainment outcomes. Breakfast clubs in primary schools are looking promising.

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