CHILDREN in the North East would turn up to lessons hungry if it wasn’t for the region’s breakfast clubs, teachers have warned.
Statistics compiled by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) show that 45% of education staff believe that if it wasn’t for breakfast clubs, many children wouldn’t have any food before school.
And almost a quarter of parents are having to rely on clubs to feed their children due to lack of money at home, caused by unemployment, the ATL says.
Last night bosses at Schools North East said that the region’s headteachers were becoming increasingly worried about the number of children showing up to school hungry.
Director Becky Earnshaw said: “After talking to headteachers, there is a real concern for pupils coming into school without an adequate meal. There is a concern about the need to have breakfast clubs in our communities because of the pressure on families and parents.
“Parents are faced with difficult economic situations, and there are pressures to get to work on time so some people don’t get the opportunity to have breakfast. It’s clearly important to have the right start, and breakfast is an important part of the school day.”
Breakfast clubs in schools across the North East have increased in the past decade as teachers try to combat children coming to school on an empty stomach.
Bakery giant Greggs operate 77 of their own breakfast clubs, 60 of which they fund and a further 17 clubs with partner businesses. The company feeds around 4,000 primary school children every day in the region.
Meanwhile, the survey also showed that 77% of respondents said that making sure pupils eat the most important meal of the day means that pupils’ concentration is better, while 71% said it also improves their ability to learn.
Teachers from the region also said that pupils attend a breakfast club because parents or carers are trying to balance their working life with childcare.
Judith Bainbridge, a primary teacher from Durham said: “Quite a lot of pupils went to childcare before school, but because of costs, parents could not afford to do it anymore and decided it was much cheaper to send them to school to a breakfast club.”
Statistics also showed that a third of staff believed there wasn’t a good enough selection of food on offer in their school or college, while more than a quarter said the portion size was inadequate for the age of the pupils.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “Getting a good nutritious start to the day has a huge impact on children’s ability to learn and concentrate at school. Many schools do everything they can to ensure children eat well during school term-time.
“But there are many children living in poverty, who we fear won’t be getting a decent meal a day in the holidays and this is something the government urgently needs to address.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We know how important it is for children to have a good breakfast.
“We want schools and local authorities to use their budgets to best meet the needs of their children. Many provide breakfast clubs which offer a free or subsidised meal to children from poorer families.”