School breakfast clubs 'in crisis' with 6,000 due to close

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A new report suggests a ‘bleak future’ for school breakfast clubs as more than four in ten teachers say their club will close in the next three years.

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The closure of breakfast clubs will affect thousands of children, warns the report

The report, by Kellogg’s in association with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), and based upon a survey of 750 teachers and national statistics on school populations, reveals that 43 per cent of teachers believe their breakfast club will have to close in the next few years.

According to ‘The Future of School Breakfast Clubs: a Funding Crisis in the UK’, this means the equivalent of 6,700 breakfast clubs will close in the next few years, affecting around 200,000 children – 163,000 primary pupils, 31,000 secondary pupils and 6,000 special school pupils.

The figures are based upon national statistics on the number of primary schools and pupils in the UK, combined with the survey results on the proportion of schools with breakfast clubs, the proportion of schools’ breakfast clubs that are at risk of closure and the number of pupils who regularly attend breakfast clubs.

The main reason cited by respondents for closing was school funding (86 per cent), followed by the need for extra staff (44 per cent) and cuts specifically to breakfast club funding (39 per cent).

A quarter of schools are trying to keep their clubs open by re-directing funds from other parts of the school budget such as school trips, making staff cuts and buying fewer resources. Some schools have also had to rely on donations from private companies or charities.

According to the report, most schools are reluctant to ask parents for bigger financial contributions to the breakfast club.

Teachers in the survey said they thought the closure of clubs will lead to a deterioration in pupil behaviour and worse attendance. Over a third (36 per cent) of teachers with breakfast clubs that have already closed down, said they have since noticed a decline in exam results.

Kellogg’s says that the closure of breakfast clubs will also affect working families and could mean some parents have to give up their job.

Mike O’Brien, headteacher of St Bernadette’s RC Primary School in Stockport, whose breakfast club is attended by 80 children, said, ‘School budgets are getting increasingly tight due to the planned funding formula changes the Government is bringing in by 2020.

‘Alongside this, changes to staffing ratios from guidance by the local authority mean we now have to pay more staff to work at the breakfast club, which in turn increases the total salaries we have to pay each year. Clearly the 30p an item charge [per item of food] doesn’t cover this so we’re left wondering how we’re going to be able to run it in the future.’

John Coe from the National Association of Primary Education said, ‘Breakfast clubs are at a critical point in their work and the overriding reason is that cuts to school funding over the next three years threaten the closing down of clubs which serve children and parents. The impact upon disadvantaged communities will be particularly severe.

 ‘Teachers testify to the educational gains which stem from a healthy breakfast and the positive effect on school and family life has been confirmed by the Department for Education. Policy makers should listen and then take decisive action to provide financial support.’

Dave Lawlor, managing director of Kellogg’s, which supports 3,000 breakfast clubs across the UK, said, ‘Great progress has been made since the 1990s to increase the number of schools offering pupils a safe and fun environment that provides a nutritious breakfast. That’s why each year the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Awards celebrate the fantastic people who make these clubs happen every day in schools up and down the country.

‘But the future for these vital breakfast clubs is at risk. The challenge for schools, government and partners in private and third sectors is to ensure that we help to sustain as many pre-school clubs as possible. We will continue to offer grants to school breakfast clubs and during the back to school period will be partnering with charity FareShare to provide 1 million breakfasts for children who attend free pre-school clubs at their school.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'Our new fairer funding for schools – backed by additional investment –  will deliver the biggest improvement to the school funding system for well over a decade. It will mean an increase in the basic amount that every pupil will get and protected funding for those with additional needs, so schools and teachers can continue to raise standards.
 
'We know that the Breakfast Clubs can not only promote healthy eating, but also improve the concentration and behaviour of pupils who attend. That is why we are proud to be funding the expansion of healthy breakfast clubs in many more schools across the country and have reviewed the evidence and lessons from our previous programme to ensure we effectively support schools and disadvantaged families.'

A tender exercise for the Government's Breakfast Clubs Expansion Programme will launch this Autumn. The programme will focus on supporting disadvantaged pupils, families, schools and areas.

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