My family are from Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and I grew up in Dagenham. My mum often used to invite children into our house for beans on toast after school. I remember watching them eating with urgency. My mum used to say they didn’t have enough at home to keep them going. That stayed with me.Carmel McConnell MBE, Our Founder
Learning Disabilities Week – Mac’s Story
Mac is a teacher at a Special Educational Needs school in England, he runs the breakfast club every single morning. We couldn’t do our work without people like Mac! Read on for his story…
Serving magic breakfasts makes my day, every day. That’s why I do it… the students make me smile, and there is simply no better way to start the day.”Mac, Breakfast Hero
Increasingly adept, these days, at carrying several bottles of milk, a couple of loaves of bread and plenty of fruit all at once, I make my usual morning journey to my little kitchen, laden with breakfast supplies!
Here, I’ll butter bread, pour cups of milk and prepare fruit bags for my students’ daily magic breakfast, and kick off both mine and their daily routines.
Routine is a key reason why I am at school every day before my paid hours start… for our students with special educational needs, breakfast isn’t just an important part of daily nutrition, but also a critical part of a regular schedule which helps students to manage their daily activities and thrive in their environment.
For any child, consistency is positive, and this is even more the case as the cost of living crisis presents new challenges and life changes for us all to navigate. Our kids can be sure that, no matter what, they can come to school each morning, be greeted by a friendly face, enjoy a breakfast with their friends and have a bit of fun.
I have also seen the clear knock-on effect that breakfast has on students’ mood and their concentration in class. The improvement in reading skills that we have seen as a result of providing brekkies has been fantastic!
I like to find the learning and engagement opportunities in every morning interaction, too… I ask all the kids to tell me the amounts of toast, bagels, fruit and milk they want, and I often challenge them with fun joke or riddle to have a guess at! Seeing the growth in confidence of our students over the past year has been a huge win for me and for the school.
Two children always have a little dance at the hatch whilst they wait for their breakfast – and I always join in! Small moments like this mean the world to me… seeing their kids shrug off their insecurities and begin talking, smiling and dancing with me in the morning is truly amazing!
It really is the most important meal, isn’t it? It shapes lives.
The Oaks would like to thank Mac for his hard work and dedication to the school every day… Mac comes in early to prepare breakfast out of the goodness of his own heart so that breakfast is 100% ready for everyone when the doors open every day. He goes above and beyond in his role and the relationship he has formed with the children is outstanding. He is second to none, and seeing the growth in our children through communication, confidence and humour has been a joy to witness – thanks Mac!Mac’s Colleague
Magic Breakfast Partner School, North East
School staff identified a child attending school late each morning. Staff were also concerned due to the child presenting hungry and unkempt. The child is a quiet, timid and shy little girl who is quite new to the school. School also became aware that mam was observed to be taking food and uniform from the school free provision service. The inclusion manager approached mam and invited her to a free parental workshop. When the relationship was formed, mam shared that she was single mother who worked a zero-hour contract which limited her benefits. This had resulted in mam struggling with her finances and ability to provide adequate food for herself and her child.
School provided mam with help and support and signposted her to free organised events and food banks within the community. The provision provided by school gave mam the confidence to confide in staff and seek help if needed. The child was invited to the schools nurture breakfast provision in order to ease mams financial pressure. Since attending this provision the child presents to be a much happy and confident member of our school family.”
Magic Breakfast Partner School, East Sussex
We had a young student that was consistently late to school most mornings, he came in with a foul mood as he had been arguing with Mum most of the morning as she wanted him in school on time. He used to eat breakfast at home. He now eats breakfast at school, this allows him an extra 15 minutes in the mornings to wake up slower and he has a more positive time in the morning with Mum and arrives to school with a much better attitude knowing he will have something to eat when he arrives.
Mum is very grateful and has said to staff on multiple occasions ‘he’s a completely different boy and I don’t have to argue with him every morning to get him up, dressed and food in his belly.’”
I visited a Primary School in Manchester. Whilst I was standing in the reception area waiting for my visit, two Key Stage 2 girls came in. Both were happily chatting at first, then a few minutes later one of them was clearly very upset.
I spoke to the girl, Daisy, when she joined the breakfast club. She was given a warm bowl of porridge which she tucked in to. Interestingly, she used her pieces of toast like a spoon, scooping it up!
After eating breakfast she went to the activity table and by the time the club ended she was chatting and laughing ready for class. I was told Daisy had realised she’d left her swimming costume at home, and it was the class day to go. The staff offered to call the Daisy’s mum but she was incredibly kind and said her mum worked night so she didn’t want to wake her.
It was later discovered, a staff member had kindly taken the wet towel and costume hanging it to dry. So she had her swimming bag in school after all! All the pieces in this jigsaw of care for one little girl to have a good morning of swimming and learning.”
On one of my recent school visits I was lucky enough to meet Miss Maggie. Miss Maggie has been running the breakfast club at St John’s CE Primary School for 20 years. She has helped thousands of children over the years.
Miss Maggie is gold dust, not only to Magic Breakfast but also to our community as a whole. So many schools have a ‘Miss Maggie’ and I personally feel humbled and forever in debt to them all for what they do, relentlessly, every day, to give our children a wonderful start to the day.
To all of the Miss Maggies out there, your dedication is extraordinary and without you, Magic Breakfast wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”
Charlotte, Volunteer Hero
I love bringing them all breakfast and knowing that the children have had something. If I was a parent who wasn’t able to do that at home, that would make me happy and would let me not worry as much because I know that they have had breakfast.
You can see [breakfast] makes a difference. It’s not just something to eat, but their behaviour, their mood, their general aura – it changes. It keeps them going and it allows them to be their best.”
I had a wonderful visit to a Primary School in Birmingham. I was lucky enough to be there on their first morning of toasting crumpets – safe to say, they were an absolute hit! I heard several children shout ‘YAY!’ when they were offered out by staff. I witnessed one little girl stop and run straight over to the crumpets!
The most moving moment for me was I noticed a little girl, Laura, sitting alone in the club looking rather sad. I went over and chatted to her but she was quite withdrawn. I asked if she’d had, or wanted, anything to eat and she said no.
I explained that I was from Magic Breakfast and was there to find out if the children liked the cereal, bagels and crumpets. As I said crumpet she looked straight at me and said, ‘I’d like a crumpet.’ I went to fetch one and promised I would pass on to my team that Laura liked the crumpets. The power of breakfast.”