14th April 2019

We read with sadness and alarm the results of a survey by the National Education Union (NEU) published today on the negative impact that poverty is having on children’s education.

According to the BBC, more than 8,600 NEU members working in schools across the UK responded to an online survey between March 20 and April 3.  Of these 91% said poverty was a factor in limiting children's capacity to learn, with 49% describing it as a major factor. Among state schools, the figures rose to 97% and 52% respectively.  About three-quarters blamed poverty for children falling asleep in lessons, being unable to concentrate and behaving badly. About half said their students had experienced hunger or ill health as a result of poverty. "Most of my class arrive at school hungry and thirsty," one teacher is quoted as saying.

Magic Breakfast provides healthy breakfasts and expert support to schools in areas of disadvantage where children arrive for morning lessons too hungry to learn.   During term time we are supporting breakfast provision for over 40,000 children in Magic Breakfast partner schools in England and Scotland and, together with our delivery partners Family Action, a further 250,000 children are benefiting from a nutritious breakfast via the National School Breakfast Programme, funded until March 2020 by the Department for Education.

A healthy breakfast at school helps to provide children with the energy and nutrients they need to thrive, improving concentration, behaviour, attendance, punctuality, well-being and educational attainment. Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that pupils in Magic Breakfast partner schools providing a free, nutritious breakfast, boosted their English and maths skills by an average of 2 months’ additional progress per year, compared to pupils in schools with no such breakfast provision.

Carmel McConnell MBE, founder of Magic Breakfast, said: “This report bears out Magic Breakfast’s experience - many schools tell us that pupil hunger is a major barrier to classroom learning. Personally, reading this new report this makes me feel angry and upset.  Poverty - particularly hunger - should not be allowed to disrupt the education of so many children in this country.  Especially as there is already a proven approach - the Magic Breakfast model - which is inexpensive and highly effective. It works!

So, while we are immensely grateful for the Government support we have, through which we are working with Family Action to deliver the National School Breakfast Programme, clearly there is a need for permanent, additional school breakfast funding and policy to fully support the increasing numbers of children who arrive hungry at school. We call on everyone who cares about this issue to help us make this case to Government - no child in the sixth richest economy should be left to start their school day too hungry to learn.”