4 March 2021

The Chancellor presented his Budget to Parliament, this week, setting out the Government’s financial priorities for the year ahead.

In his speech, the Chancellor failed to acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged children and did not announce any new measures to support these children. The Budget documentation did acknowledge that children as a whole have lost out on learning as a result of school closures and referred to education catch-up funding worth £700m previously announced by the Government. There was no commitment in the Budget to invest in school breakfast provision.

Magic Breakfast believes that education catch-up programmes will be enormously important, but are only one aspect of supporting children to recover from the impact of the pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, food insecurity amongst children rose, with the latest data from the Food Foundation suggesting 2.3 million children in the UK have been affected in the last 6 months alone. Our 20 years of experience working with schools indicates that for children experiencing food insecurity, hunger will continue to act as a barrier to learning. Catch-up programmes will not work if children are sitting in lessons with empty stomachs, unable to concentrate. A Magic Breakfast commissioned YouGov survey, conducted in July 2020, found that nearly two thirds of teachers surveyed felt that hunger would harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures.

We know that starting the day with a nutritious breakfast is essential for children’s learning and wellbeing. New research from Pro Bono Economics, Magic Breakfast and Heinz has found that school breakfast provision boosts children’s lifetime earnings too, with significant long-term benefits for the economy.

However, the Government’s current funding for school breakfasts, via the National School Breakfast Programme in England, ends in July 2021. That is why Magic Breakfast, along with over 30 food insecurity, education, health and anti-poverty organisations, campaigned for the Government to announce new, scaled-up, funding for school breakfasts in the Budget, in line with the proposal set out in the School Breakfast Bill. The School Breakfast Bill proposes providing all 8,700 schools in England with high levels of disadvantage, with funding required to provide school breakfasts to children. The Bill also proposes making this funding long-term and sustainable.

Though this was not announced in the Budget, this remains Magic Breakfast’s recommendation for Government.

We were encouraged to hear the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, acknowledge the importance of school breakfasts in Parliament earlier this week. The Minister said ‘I completely agree a healthy and nutritious breakfast sets a child up for a learning day. We have extended our programme until July of this year and are considering options for breakfast provision beyond that date. We’re engaging with the market to help develop those options and we expect to be able to say more very soon’.

We await the Government’s announcement on the future of school breakfast funding. We urge the Government to act swiftly to avoid a gap in school breakfast provision for children at risk of hunger when the National School Breakfast Programme ends in July.