Essex: Sharp decline in school breakfast clubs sparks concern

A SHARP decline in the number of school breakfast clubs will hit the grades of Essex’s poorest children, it’s been claimed.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show Essex had 219 clubs in 2011, compared with 169 this year.

The 30% fall tallies with the picture nationally - 40% of the 128 local authorities polled reported a drop in the number of clubs.

Jerry Glazier, general secretary of Essex National Union of Teachers, said: “I’m disappointed to see this drop, it’s bad news. It’s counter intuitive, you would expect there to be an increase, not a decrease.

“This is a criticism not of schools but of the funding methodologies and it’s a perhaps a consequence of the diminishing role of local authorities with schools.

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“I know the cuts are having a big impact across the most disadvantaged areas. For that group of children having something to eat before school is absolutely critical if they are going to get the best out of the opportunity they are being given.

“The local authority needs to be doing all it can to support breakfast clubs, otherwise we’re going to get a sector of the school population who are going to have a decreasing level of attainment.”

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Magic Breakfast, a charity that provides free food to 6,000 school children a day, says 93% of teachers reported breakfast clubs have led to better concentration in class.

Mike Mackrory, leader of the Lib Dems on Essex County Council, said: “I’m obviously quite alarmed and concerned to learn about these figures but one does have to recognise that schools have dedicated budgets these days and it’s up to them how they spend their money.

“It’s concerning because it’s so important that children are fully fed and alert for the rest of the day.

“If they don’t get a breakfast that’s a real concern.

“All county councils do these days is pass the funding onto schools. The head teachers and governers have to make very hard choices on how they spend their grants and I recognise that but they have to recognise the importance of breakfast clubs.”

Earlier this year the Royal College of General Practitioners, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health called on the Government to give the 1.3m children in England already entitled to free school meals, free breakfasts too.

Essex County Council was asked to comment but did not respond in time.

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