12 August 2020

A new term starts in Scotland this week and the phrase ”back to school” certainly has a different feel to it this year. Usually it just conjures up images of supermarket aisles stocked with stationery, backpacks and school shirts. This year for many children starting the new term in Scotland this week, it means nervously returning after a long time away and for some that will mean returning to school hungry.

Our YouGov survey of Scottish teachers found that nearly two thirds of them fear a rise in hunger among children returning to school.  The impact of coronavirus on many families’ income, coupled with a long time without access to lunches and breakfasts in a school setting will mean many children return to school malnourished.

Children in disadvantaged families always tend to suffer more from what is known as ‘learning loss’ over the summer holidays but this year that will have been exacerbated by an extended period away from school.

80% of the teachers we polled in Scotland think coronavirus has negatively affected their pupils’ educational attainment and 75% think coronavirus has negatively affected their pupils’ mental health and wellbeing too. However, 76% of those we surveyed think school breakfasts will help children catch up on learning missed during the pandemic. We currently work with 39 schools in Scotland and we were able to continue delivering breakfast food to 75% of them throughout lockdown, with further deliveries to children through the summer holidays.

Kathleen McBride, Principal Teacher of Nurture at Lourdes Secondary School in Glasgow says: “As with so many school communities across the country, our families and young people have been dealt a severe blow with the onset of Covid-19, the subsequent lockdown and its many far-reaching and complex ramifications. Thankfully, our school have had Magic Breakfast at our side; supporting us to support our young people through this time when food insecurity has been manifestly a concern for many”.

We’d like to support more schools, but our reach can only extend so far, so we are calling on the Scottish Government to do more to close the poverty-related attainment gap, via a national programme of breakfast provision.

Alex Cunningham, our CEO, says: “Permanent legislation is needed to guarantee that all children at risk of hunger in all Scottish schools have access to a free healthy school breakfast, to unlock hours of learning and enable them to reach their full potential”.

Alex’s call to action is echoed by a resounding 89% of the teachers we polled in Scotland who said they support the setting up of a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the school term.

We wish pupils in Scotland all the best this week and look forward to providing those in our partner schools with more, healthy fuel for learning throughout this new term, whatever else it might hold.