09 April 2021

Over the last few months, Magic Breakfast has been working on its manifesto recommendations for the SNP ahead of the election on May 6. At the end of last year, the party boldly committed to universal free school breakfast provision in primary schools, including during the holidays, and Magic Breakfast warmly welcomed this as an ambitious step in tackling child hunger. However, two key groups of children were not mentioned in the pledge: children in special schools and secondary schools. Magic Breakfast therefore compiled an in-depth, research-based policy brief for the party, where we put forward two additional recommendations. We then met with SNP political advisors to discuss our recommendations.

Our first recommendation advocated for universal free breakfast provision to be extended to all children in state-funded special schools. Children attending special schools face a disproportionately high risk of poverty and hunger, with 63% of pupils attending special schools in Scotland coming from SIMD Deciles 1-4, compared to 35% in primary schools and 41% in secondary schools. What’s more, evidence shows children attending special schools achieve poorer educational outcomes than those in mainstream schools, and also face a higher risk of obesity – two key areas that regular, nutritious breakfasts have been proven to directly and positively tackle.

Our second recommendation was for the SNP to roll-out a pilot project to refine school breakfast provision in secondary schools. We know classroom hunger affects children of all ages, and that secondary-aged schoolchildren currently receive far less breakfast provision support from councils than any other type of school. Indeed,

Magic Breakfast analysis found that out of 28 local authorities, only five currently offer school breakfast provision support. By comparison, 18 local authorities provide school breakfast provision to primary schools.

Yesterday, the SNP made an announcement reaffirming its commitment to universal free school breakfast provision in primary schools. Going significantly further, the party also announced it will now be committing to Magic Breakfast’s two recommendations. This means many children who have additional support needs and/or a disability, which are the group of children at highest risk of hunger in the country, will soon receive a free, nutritious breakfast every single day, should the SNP be re-elected. It also means that a thorough exploration of breakfast provision in secondary schools will be undertaken, so that in the years that follow, all adolescents will potentially be able to receive free school breakfasts in a highly effective way, ensuring no child in Scotland will be too hungry to learn.  

Magic Breakfast is thrilled the SNP has agreed to take such momentous steps towards tackling child hunger in Scotland. Even before yesterday’s announcement the party showed a deep commitment to school breakfasts: in February, John Swinney partnered with Magic Breakfast to write an op-ed in The National that highlighted our research on the positive economic benefits of school breakfasts. Their commitments yesterday further cemented their dedication to tackling poverty, child hunger and to reducing the attainment gap. And by ensuring more children start each day with a full stomach, ready to learn, the SNP are boldly paving the way toward a country where classroom hunger is a thing of the past – a vision Magic Breakfast has been working toward for 20 years.

We’ll be keeping an eye out over the coming weeks as the other political parties in Scotland announce their commitments to school breakfast. We hope to see strong cross-party support for ensuring no child starts the day too hungry to learn.