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The mighty school breakfast club

breakfast club image

A healthy, free breakfast at the start of the day is just one way our schools are supporting families who’re feeling the strain with the cost-of-living crisis.

The National School Breakfast Programme offers schools in disadvantaged areas a 75% subsidy to set up a breakfast club.

rosalie mead modifiedNSPB LogoWe’ve been speaking to Rosalie Mead, who’s the National School Breakfast Programme programme manager from Family Action, the charity delivering this contract to find out how your school or trust can get involved.

Rosalie, firstly can you tell us a bit more about the National School Breakfast programme?

It’s an England-wide programme funded by the Department of Education which supports schools to provide children with a meal at the start of the school day. To be eligible for the programme, schools need to have 40% or more pupils in bands A-F of the income deprivation affecting children index (IDACI).

The current programme launched in July 2021 but we also delivered the previous programme in 2018 alongside another charity so we have a lot of experience in supporting successful breakfast clubs. Funding for this programme has just been extended for a further year so we can now support schools who sign up from now until July 2024.

The food we provide is delivered to a school’s door and we also provide resources to help enhance provision and opportunities to share good practice with other schools. Plus we offer an online portal so schools can order food easily and make changes to orders. We support them throughout the duration of the programme.

The programme provides schools with a 75% subsidy but schools still need to contribute 25% of the costs of those food items and delivery.

How healthy is the food you’re providing? 

We provide bagels, a range of cereal and porridge and they all meet the school food standards. We also provide information and advice on the amount and types of spreads to use with the bagels plus guidance on which other foods do or don’t meet the school food standards for breakfast.

We have 2,500 places on our programme and we’re almost at capacity. We now have a waiting list in place if schools wish to apply. 

That filled up quickly! If governors want to signpost their schools to the programme, can schools join the waiting list?

Yes they can still apply on our website and they’ll join the waiting list. We're currently processing the applications we have, and can't guarantee places for schools on the waiting list.  

Do schools ever struggle to meet their contribution of 25% of the cost?

IMG 1624Schools meet it in a range of ways and we do provide support for them around their contribution. Some schools fund it from their budget, others use the pupil premium (this is endorsed by the Education Endowment Foundation guide to pupil premium funding). Some schools fundraise or get sponsorship and again we’ll provide advice on that and give examples of what other schools have done. We’ve just had some free events where schools have shared ideas on how they’ve funded their breakfast which include sponsorship from local businesses, rotary clubs or supermarkets.

We also look at ways they can deliver the breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a traditional breakfast club. There are lots of other ways to do it whether that’s a classroom based breakfast, grab-and-go bagel bar or delivery in the playground as children arrive at the beginning of the school day.

We work with schools to find a model which best fits their setting, their staffing and their needs. We recognise every school is different. 

Are you seeing an increased need for breakfast provision at the moment?

Schools tell us that they’re seeing increased need and demand, but what they like about this programme is that it can be offered to all children in a school that need it, not just those on free school meals or those eligible for pupil premium funding. There are children who may need breakfast for a whole range of reasons and the programme is open to every child who needs it without barriers or stigma.

Do you have evidence of the programme’s impact?

We produced an impact report from our last programme which found that over 90% of school leaders surveyed said that breakfast provision is important or extremely important on a wide range of issues: concentration in class, improving parental engagement, improving social skills, improving readiness to learn at the start of the school day and behaviour in class as well as improving attendance and punctuality. It’s also a good opportunity for children to share time together before the school day.

speech marks the hoot 1This has been transformational in our school. We have so many hungry children and as we have been able to provide them with a free breakfast, with no stigma, this has greatly helped their educational attainment. This has also enabled them to be ready for the school day."

Thornbury Primary Leadership Academy

Should schools who aren’t eligible consider this intervention too if they can fund it?

Breakfast is a really important provision and this is backed up by research as well. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) conducted some research which found that children in year 2 where schools had a breakfast club made up to  2 months more progress that year than schools without a breakfast club and that it had a positive effect on all children, not just those having the breakfast itself. It affects a whole class if everyone is well fed.

There have been studies completed around teenagers and breakfast and how much that can improve their concentration levels. I think it can be beneficial across the board.

I think it’s helpful for leaders to look at the need in their schools. Maybe try out a breakfast - think about children who’re late in the morning or those who find it difficult to get to school. From what we see, it is very beneficial to a vast majority of the schools on the programme. It’s definitely an effective whole-school intervention.

Governors sometimes get in touch to find out more about the programme. We encourage schools to share the success of their breakfast club with governing boards and to collect evidence on the impact it’s having. We provide tools for them to do that. It helps for sharing with Ofsted inspectors too.