4th November, 2016

Exciting new research published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), with the support of Magic Breakfast, has found that breakfast clubs that offer pupils in primary schools a free and nutritious meal before school can boost their reading, writing and maths results by the equivalent of two months’ progress over the course of a year.

Researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the National Children’s Bureau carried out an independent, randomised controlled trial with the help of 106 fantastic Magic Breakfast partner schools. Over the course of an academic year, parents were encouraged to send their child to free breakfast clubs before registration. A total of 8,600 children took part in the trial. They were able to choose between the standard Magic Breakfast food offering of nutritious Tesco cereals, Quaker Oats porridge and Bagel Nash bagels.

The evaluators found that Year 2 children in schools with a breakfast club made two additional months’ progress in reading, writing and maths compared with a similar group whose schools were not given support to offer breakfast. The researchers also reported that the pupils’ concentration and behaviour improved too. The evaluators suggest that breakfast clubs provide an opportunity to improve outcomes for all children, not just those who actually attend, by creating better classroom environments. The impact for Year 6 pupils was slightly smaller but still promising.    

The EEF say that the results suggest that for pupils in relatively disadvantaged schools it is attending the breakfast club, not just eating breakfast, which leads to academic improvements. This, they say, could be due to the nutritional benefits of the breakfast itself, or the social or educational benefits of the breakfast club environment.

Magic Breakfast's founder and Chief Executive, Carmel McConnell, said: “This important, independent research shows a significant boost to attainment resulting directly from Magic Breakfast provision. If we as a nation are serious about tackling educational underachievement, this evidence shows the Magic Breakfast model of low or no cost nutritious school breakfasts, with the targeting of those most in need, really works. It's time to embed this approach and gain that same classroom success for every vulnerable child.”

Sam Bailey, Principal of the Forest Academy in Barnsley, who have been receiving Magic Breakfast provision since 2014, said: "Since opening a Magic Breakfast club in our school, we’ve really noticed the positive effect it’s had on our school community.  Pupil behaviour has improved dramatically and attitudes to learning are the best they have ever been. We are blessed with alert, enthusiastic, determined and hard-working pupils who are ready to learn. Academic standards have been raised too and we’ve seen significant improvements in every year group.“

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:  “The fact that there are children that will go to school hungry today is a national scandal. Offering free breakfasts at school is a relatively cheap and straightforward way of alleviating this symptom of disadvantage. Many schools across the country already offer some sort of breakfast provision.  That’s why the findings from today’s evaluation report are so encouraging. Not only does a good breakfast provide all young people with a nutritious start to the day, but well-run breakfast clubs have the potential to boost attainment and behaviour too. The government has committed to spending £10m a year on healthy breakfast clubs, as part of their plan to tackle childhood obesity. They, and school leaders more generally, should consider using a free, universal and before-school model to benefit attainment as well". 

Magic Breakfast's priority is to reach the thousands of children in over 300 schools on our waiting list as soon as possible so that they too can benefit from the significant boost to their learning that this new research confirms a nutritious breakfast at school can provide. 

You can read more details from the report here