24 March 2022

Magic Breakfast in Scotland: 1.5 million breakfasts later there are still too many young Scots too hungry to learn

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Written by By Finlay Allmond, Magic Breakfast Policy Officer (Scotland)

Home > What we do > News and views > Magic Breakfast in Scotland: 1.5 million breakfasts later there are still too many young Scots too hungry to learn

In every primary school classroom in Scotland there are an average of six children living in poverty. 1 2

In the last decade child poverty in Scotland has been on a slow, but upward, trajectory. Last year the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that without further intervention the Scottish Government will miss their own child poverty targets.3We have already publicly welcomed government interventions such as the doubling of the Scottish Child Payment, but now the government has the opportunity to move at speed to deliver free school breakfasts.

In January, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills all but confirmed that the pilot project for free breakfast provision in primary and special schools in Scotland would not start this year. We see this as a missed opportunity for the Scottish Government to move at speed to delivering an intervention which will support children across Scotland. Much like the current government policy of expanding free school lunches, universal free school breakfast provision is a stigma and barrier free policy that will support countless families.

Exclusive polling conducted by Opinium late last year found that 68% of Scots believe that providing free school breakfast for disadvantaged children should be a priority. Universal provision eliminates the stigma and the isolation that children and young people living at the margins feel by making breakfast a standardised part of the school day. As we move out of the pandemic and into a period of dramatic inflation, we know that family finances can fluctuate quickly. Universal measures protect children and young people from snap changes in their family circumstances.

In Edinburgh, we work in Castleview Primary School, just 2 miles from Holyrood. Over 95% of pupils at Castleview live in the 40% most disadvantaged communities in Scotland. Working in partnership with their Magic Breakfast School Partner, Castleview have developed a universal approach to free school breakfasts. Before working with us, Castleview felt able to support fewer than 10% of their pupils. Through tailoring the Magic Breakfast model to their school experience, Castleview are now able to offer breakfast to all students. On an average day, their barrier free and hunger focused provision reaches around 1 in 3 pupils. The students of Castleview Primary School are some of the 4,000 children and young people who receive a Magic Breakfast every school day.

This month we are marking the fourth anniversary of the official launch of Magic Breakfast Scotland. That’s four years of supporting children at risk of hunger. Four years of working day in day out with our dedicated partner schools to deliver hunger focused and barrier free provision. Four years of support from our partners to provide fuel for learning. In that time, we’ve provided around 1.5 million breakfasts across 10 of Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities. We know that this is just a small dent in the scale of hunger faced by children and young people in Scotland.

Scotland could lead not just the United Kingdom but the whole world by becoming the first country to deliver universal free school breakfasts in primary and special schools. This wouldn’t just aid educational attainment but would support children and young people across their whole school experience. A majority of our partner schools in Scotland have found that their Magic Breakfast provision has delivered positive impacts on: educational attainment, punctuality, concentration and alertness, behaviour, social skills, healthy eating habits, mental and emotional wellbeing, and physical health and wellbeing.

One of our school leaders told us that ‘when our children are hungry, they are not equipped to reach their full potential.’ We know the political will exists here in Scotland to deliver free school breakfasts. Scotland’s children and young people need politics to become policy to allow them to reach their full potential.

This year we are committed to working with the Scottish Government to help them deliver on their commitments. This includes demonstrating the effectiveness of our model and explaining how it can work at scale. We’re engaging with elected officials at every level and are passionate about advocating for children and young people. Our youth campaigners are helping share our message on the importance of delivering policy. Our Scottish youth campaigner Rowan said it best, ‘I became a youth campaigner to make a change for kids like me.’

If you want to support us as we deliver fuel for learning to over 4,000 children and young people in Scotland then donate today or follow us online to hear more about our work @magicbfast_scot on Twitter.

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This page was last updated on

7 December 2023

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