The Forest Academy, Barnsley

A Primary School Case Study – the journey from no breakfast to ‘Top Ten Most Improved School in England’


The Forest Academy is a primary school on the Kendray estate in Barnsley. It started a breakfast club for the first time in September 2014, with Magic Breakfast support.

Sam Bailey, the new Headteacher, set out quickly to embed breakfast as a key part of the school day. She issued a personal invitation to every family, encouraging them to bring in all children for breakfast, so that the whole school could experience a warmer, more welcoming start to the day. 

An incredible 170 out of 220 children attended breakfast in the first week. Numbers settled to 140 children, a participation level that was sustained throughout the rest of the year.

Describe a typical day

Initially children were invited to one of two sittings, either 08:00 or 08:30. The early breakfasters went on to academic booster groups while the second sitting ate. Gradually the provision evolved into a natural flow of children, with no formal sittings needed. 

Doors open at 08:00 and for the next 40 minutes there’s a steady flow of children arriving and eating. When children finish their breakfast, they can move on to a range of well stocked tables including craft activities, construction toys and table football (around which there is always a crowd!). 

From 08:30 children can (if they wish) go to their classrooms to access iPads and other electronic equipment for booster learning in maths and literacy. A substantial number of children make this choice, supervised by class teachers who are preparing their day while the children have screen-based booster time.



Children can select from the full range of the Magic Breakfast offering, with porridge being a recently introduced item. It started off as one of the Head’s ‘Friday Feast specials’ but became a daily favourite in the cold months. The Head’s other Friday specials include scrambled eggs (produced by the Head with ‘three bowls and a microwave’) or baked beans.



Breakfast is managed by a team of 3 staff, plus 3 parent volunteers a day (on a rota system).

Support staff contracts all start at 08:30 so the provision is well covered for when children move to classrooms.


Head’s top tips 

* When recruiting or replacing a TA, make the core hours start at 08:00 or 08:30. It will solve your breakfast staffing problem and add huge value to the children’s attainment. 

* Make children want to come. Forest children regularly stand up in assembly to tell the school about things that have happened in Breakfast Club and new equipment or activities.



The Head testifies that breakfast has had a major impact on school across a range of areas. 

* Lateness – a BIG impact on lateness. Since starting breakfast, lates have reduced by over 100!

* No children crying in the morning.

* Behavioural incidents decreased significantly.

* Attainment – pupil progress is improved dramatically over the first year, and the small group work that is happening at breakfast is a vital contributor to that.

* Improved relationships – all kinds of relationships! Staff, children, parent volunteers all have better relationships, within and between those groups!

* Classes settled and ready to learn – children are happy and keen to come to school!


Story of a Parent Volunteer:

One mum was approached by school and asked to help at breakfast. She agreed, enjoyed it, grew in confidence and then went on to apply for a lunchtime supervisor's job. She is now enrolling on a college course to train to become a TA. Her sons now have great punctuality records too!


How did you get 140 out of 220 attendance literally from day one? 

“Every child initially got a named letter, saying ‘we would like your child to come to breakfast at ……[either 08:00 or 08:30]’. We told parents we wanted children to come. For a couple of weeks, staff phoned up the parents of children targeted for booster sessions and followed them up with intensive encouragement. 

The peer effect is very strong – the children who didn’t come at the beginning started to come when their friends talked about it.

We have a dining room as well as a hall, which helps, takes pressure off the clearing up a bit.”


End of year academic impact

The improvement in SATS in 2015, compared to the previous year, was nothing short of astonishing, and the Head believes the breakfast provision and related booster activities have played a significant role in this achievement.

In the words of the Head, Sam Bailey:

"At KS2 we achieved 83% combined L4 - up from 33% last year.

At KS1, we achieved a 85% Y1 phonics pass rate (up from 40%), and in Year 2 we had not far off 80% reading, writing and maths L2b+, compared to the previous year when it was around 50%.

It was an incredible year. We must be a great case study for 1000 good reasons to have a breakfast club…."

Photo: Pupil enjoying his breakfast at Forest Academy