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Labour’s plan for ‘catch-up’ breakfast clubs could give post-pandemic boost to millions of school children across England

Child eating

Schools children across England could benefit from up to 1.5 billion free healthy breakfasts a year under @LabourUK’s plan for universal ‘catch-up’ breakfast clubs, to help children bounce back from the pandemic.

Labour is calling on the Government to introduce catch-up breakfast clubs, to give kids more time with friends and teachers to support their recovery from the pandemic. Kate Green MP will set out Labour’s plans for every primary and secondary child to be offered a free healthy breakfast at school to ensure they’re ready for learning, in a speech to the Confederation of School Trusts annual conference on Wednesday (28 Apr). 

Labour’s call comes alongside new figures that shows five million people now live in food insecure households, including 1.7 million children.

Breakfast clubs would support children’s wellbeing with extra time to socialise, while also giving schools extra time to provide targeted tuition or catch up support. Evidence shows breakfast clubs can boost children’s educational attainment with positive impacts on reading and writing.

Labour’s universal offer stands in stark contrast to the Government’s breakfast clubs provision which is expected to provide support to an average of just one child in every class. Nationally, Labour’s breakfast clubs policy could deliver nearly 1.5 billion breakfasts to the seven million school pupils in England over a year.

The gap in learning between children on free school meals and their peers had not narrowed for five years before the pandemic, and new evidence suggests the impact of lockdown is delaying young children’s language and social development. Yet Ministers have announced just a single-year catch-up plan, amounting to just 43p a day per child over the next school year with no specific support for wellbeing or social development.  

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“From having to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide free school meals during the holidays, to exams chaos and children being left without the resources to learn at home, the Conservatives have treated children as an afterthought throughout this pandemic.

“Now their recovery package amounts to a pitiful 43p a child per day, with no plans to support children’s wellbeing or social development.

“Labour wants children to be at the heart of an ambitious national recovery from this pandemic. Breakfast clubs would give every child a healthy meal to start their day, more time to play with their friends and extra time for teachers to provide targeted catch-up support, ensuring every child is supported to reach their potential.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Many schools already run breakfast clubs for their pupils and often look to target that support for the pupils that need it most. Hunger is a real concern for school staff who regularly see children arriving in the morning without having eaten, and therefore not ready to learn. These concerns have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the financial impact it has had on many families. We know that some children rely on school for their only certain meal of the day.

“A commitment to properly fund breakfast club provision and to expand it where appropriate would be welcome. A positive start to the day and a nutritious breakfast before school for those who need it could make a real difference. If properly funded and resourced this entitlement is something school leaders would support.”

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