Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has joined with a group of cross party MPs and peers to call on the Government to extend its National School Breakfast Programme to all 8,700 schools in England with a high level of disadvantage.
The National School Breakfast Programme has benefitted 280,000 children, with nine schools in Stockton North being part of the scheme. The cross-party group is asking for the Government to scale up its provision in line with the School Breakfast Bill – which has been postponed due to Covid.
There is a strong correlation between breakfast provision and educational attainment. Evaluation of the “Magic Breakfast” scheme has shown that Key Stage One pupils benefitting from universal free school breakfast make an additional two months progress over the academic year in comparison with pupils with no breakfast provision.
The cross party group argues that the £300m needed a year to fund this could come from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (Sugar Tax) which raises around £340m a year. £700m of this levy raised from 2018 is still unaccounted for.
“The pandemic has exposed child food insecurity in the starkest terms. Two out five children living in poverty are not entitled to free school meals and will be going to school not knowing if they’ll be fed on a given day. That’s simply not acceptable, and the I hope the Government will listen to this cross-party plea for them to scale up free school breakfasts to those most in need – and fund it with money from the Sugar Tax.
“The evidence also shows that children learn better if they’re not hungry. The North-South educational divide – already wide pre-Covid – has grown during the pandemic and we need to see real action from the Government to address this. Ensuring children are well fed and ready for the school day would be a real example of ‘levelling up”, not just the buzzword we so often hear”.