New study to examine impact of free school breakfasts

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The Institute for Fiscal Studies is to carry out a year-long study into the impact of free school breakfasts on children’s academic progress.


Carmel McConnell, founder of Magic Breakfast, which will be recruiting 200 schools for the study

Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Department for Education, the project will involve 36,000 pupils in 200 primary schools across the country, recruited by Magic Breakfast.

Researchers will compare the impact of clubs where children, regardless of income, get a free breakfast, to clubs where only pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) get breakfast for free. Pupils that aren’t given a free breakfast will have the option to pay for one.

They will also examine whether there is a difference in attainment between breakfast clubs that operate before school and those held during school hours to determine the impact of extending the school day.

Breakfasts will be provided to all children in Key Stages 1 and 2, however the evaluation, which along with pupils’ attainment will look at pupil behaviour and concentration, will focus on Years 2 and 6.

The research has been commissioned in light of the recommendation in the School Food Plan that breakfast clubs should be set-up in schools with the highest levels of deprivation.

According to the EEF, previous studies have shown that breakfast provision has a positive impact on attendance and concentration, but its effect on attainment is not known.

The 200 schools involved in the study will be recruited by Magic Breakfast this summer and will be randomly assigned to one of the models or in a control group.

Schools placed in the control group will receive their choice of breakfast provision in 2016.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies will publish their findings in Spring 2016.

Alex Cunningham, acting chief executive of Magic Breakfast, said, ‘We are delighted to be working with the EEF on this project. The increase in the number of schools on our waiting list shows schools are increasingly interested in offering free breakfasts to their pupils. Research has shown that nearly a third (32 per cent) of children in the UK regularly miss breakfast before school and this affects concentration and energy levels.

'Pupils tell us that they come to school on time to get their free breakfast and that without Magic Breakfast they would have nothing to eat in the morning.

‘Our own research shows that 93 per cent of schools see an increase in concentration and energy among children attending our breakfast clubs. While we value schools' assessments of our effectiveness we are looking forward to seeing our work independently tested through a rigorous randomised controlled trial.

'We want to move the conversation forward, from whether breakfast provision in schools is a good investment to how it can have the greatest impact on pupils.’

  • Schools interested in taking part in the trial should contact Magic Breakfast.


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