Last week, we hosted a parliamentary event sponsored by Alan Mak MP – a breakfast reception, of course – with MPs from various parties in attendance, and keynote speeches given by the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan MP, and our CEO, Dr Lindsey MacDonald. It was fantastic to catch up with some of our Parliamentary supporters, but also an opportunity to welcome new allies, and discuss the various benefits of evidence informed breakfast programmes with MPs and department officials. We were also thrilled two pupils and the Headteacher from Westminster Academy, one of the schools we work with, were able to attend and speak with MPs about their experiences.
For some time, we have called on the Government for greater investment in, and recognition of, the important role of school breakfast for children and young people. Last week, we saw first-hand a growing recognition of breakfast’s importance, and a keenness to understand how best to deliver it.
Gillian Keegan noted in her speech that because of school breakfasts, children will “be able to concentrate, they’ll be able to get further in life, they won’t get left behind”, and acknowledged that breakfast provision in school can make a difference to the “health, the learning and the wellbeing of children”, ensuring that “thousands of children are able to start the school day with a positive experience, focussed and ready to learn.”
There was also acknowledgement of our existing impact on Government policy: “I’m not only here to praise your work, because in government we have been inspired by your efforts – we recently expanded the NSBP by another 200 schools with your support, and I’m so grateful for the work you have done to promote it to schools within your network and I look forward to continuing our collaboration and seeing what more we can do and how we can do it better.”
It’s more important than ever, as the eyes of the nation’s political class turn towards an oncoming General Election, to ensure that politicians from across all parties have the knowledge they need to make informed and evidence driven decisions around breakfast.
When we talk about breakfast, we don’t just bring our 22 years of experience delivering school breakfasts around the country to bear, but also our amassed body of research, which demonstrates clearly what we at Magic Breakfast already know: that our model is what works.
Our hunger focused, stigma free provision, backed by expert staff to support schools, means we are able to reach more children and young people at risk of hunger, per school, than other providers. Our 2022 report Hidden Hunger, the most comprehensive mapping of breakfast provision in the UK done to date, showed that the average take up for breakfast in Magic Breakfast schools in England alone was greater than that of other providers in every other UK nation combined.
This model also means that breakfast can be more than a meal, as highlighted by our CEO in her speech. What’s For Breakfast, our latest research, points out that breakfast can be a calm start to the day, it reduces anxiety, it gives students who might not be able to do homework at home a chance to catch up and can even be an incentive to get children to school on time. Previous research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) also shows it increases attendance, attainment and improves classroom environments.
This event comes at a time of profound need. Our latest research showed that almost 1 in 3 low income parents are skipping meals to make sure they can feed their children, and other organisations have found similar levels of need in their own research. 4 million children live in households that experienced food insecurity in June 2023. Almost 1 in 4 households with children have experienced food insecurity in June 2023. This is 23.4% of households with children, according to regular data tracked by The Food Foundation. As we explained recently, though the rate of overall inflation is dropping, inflation for food is persistently high, and at a level not seen since the late Seventies.
This is why it was heartening to hear that the Government are open to working with us on this essential mission, with Gillian Keegan noting that: “We’re committed to this agenda because it helps kids, it also helps parents. Breakfast clubs are a great way of providing wraparound childcare, giving the parents freedom, support and the choice to look after their children in a way that works best for them.”
With the Chancellor announcing £289million of funding for ‘pathfinder programmes’ in the last Budget, there is an opportunity for real movement on school breakfast provision. This was acknowledged by Alan Mak MP, a longstanding and valued ally to Magic Breakfast, who wrote in his piece for the Times Red Box that: “The best way to ensure the government’s expanded wraparound care policy has a powerful impact on children’s education is to firmly embed school breakfasts within it.”
We agree. We are open to working with the Government and all parties to ensure that children and young people get the best start to their day, and delivering a country where no child is too hungry to learn; now and for good.