●     A new study by Pro Bono Economics, undertaken in partnership with children’s charity Magic Breakfast and Heinz, has found that providing disadvantaged pupils ages 6 to 7 in Primary 3 [1] with just one year’s supply of school breakfast provision could generate long-term economic benefits in excess of £9,000 per child [2]

●     With an estimated 22,103 pupils aged between 6 and 7 in Primary 3 at schools with high levels of disadvantage, this figure amounts to a staggering £200million in benefits across Scotland [3]

●     The findings follow a recent SNP pledge to provide free school breakfasts and lunches to all primary school pupils if re-elected in May and indicate that this bold commitment could not only improve children’s academic outcomes, but also boost the economy

●     In their Reform Our Schools policy paper published in September 2020, the Scottish Conservatives also committed to providing all primary children with free school breakfasts and lunches, as did the Scottish Greens in their 2018 Level the Playing Field policy paper

7th February 2021 - A new report released today reveals that just one year’s worth of school breakfast provision for disadvantaged pupils ages 6 to 7 could generate long-term economic benefits in excess of £9,000 per child.

With an estimated 22,103 pupils aged between 6 and 7 in Primary 3 at schools with high levels of disadvantage across Scotland, this figure amounts to a staggering £200million in benefits.

The study, undertaken by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with children’s charity Magic Breakfast and Heinz, comes after the SNP, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Greens pledged to provide free universal breakfasts and lunches to primary school pupils in Scotland, all year round.

Available to view in full here, the report provides an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the Magic Breakfast model of free, universal, school breakfast provision. Existing evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies provides evidence that school breakfast provision, targeted at schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children, improves children’s educational attainment. This report looks at the long-term economic benefits of that improved attainment, which is largely a result of increased life-time earnings from employment. 

The report analyses the long-term economic benefits of school breakfast provision for Year 2 pupils in England. Using robust methodology, the findings have then been applied to the equivalent year group in Scotland, Primary 3, to determine the long-term economic benefits of school breakfast provision for the Scottish economy. 

Key findings from the report include:

●     The cost of school breakfast provision is around £180 per pupil per year. Even after subtracting these costs, breakfast provision for one year for those pupils ages 6 to 7 in Primary 3 has the potential to generate net long-term benefits in excess of £9,000 per child

●     Approximately £4,000 of these benefits will go to the Government through increased tax revenue and reduced public services costs

●     There are an estimated 22,103 pupils in Primary 3 at schools with high levels of disadvantage in Scotland. If all of these pupils received the Magic Breakfast model of school breakfast provision it could generate total long-term economic benefits of approximately £200million

●     More than 90 per cent of these benefits are likely to be in the form of improved life-time earnings for the beneficiaries, with the remainder due to reduced costs for Special Educational Needs, truancy and exclusions

●     This means that every £1 spent on the programme could generate more than £50 in benefits, making it a highly cost-effective intervention

Alysa Remtulla, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Magic Breakfast, said: “We know from the schools we support that a school breakfast ensures a child starts the day feeling settled, valued and ready to learn. As this report shows, that meal can have a lifelong impact on a child, enabling them to reach their full potential and opening up a world of opportunities.

“As Scotland looks towards Covid-19 recovery, this report is proof that school breakfasts could tackle the widening educational attainment gap and contribute to repairing the economy. This is a smart and cost-effective investment for the Scottish Government.

“Magic Breakfast warmly welcomes the pledges made by the Scottish parties to provide universal, free primary school breakfasts to children in Scotland.  This commitment will ensure that no primary school child starts the day too hungry to learn and will pay dividends back to the economy in the long term.”

Georgiana de Noronha, President of Northern Europe at Heinz, said: “This report shows just how vital school breakfast provision can be, not only in the short-term by tackling child hunger and improving energy levels and concentration, but also in the long-term, generating greater benefits for the wider economy.

“This is a critical moment in the fight against child hunger in the UK and we applaud the commitments made thus far by Scottish parties to provide universal free school breakfasts for primary school pupils. This will not only help bridge the attainment gap, but as we can see here, will also bring long-term economic benefits to Scotland.

“In 2019 we announced our five-year partnership with Magic Breakfast, providing their partner schools with Heinz No Added Sugar Beanz, which are naturally high in protein and fibre, and we remain committed to driving awareness of the issue of child hunger and doing what we can to help solve child food poverty in the UK.”

Charlotte McManus, Breakfast Club Coordinator at Bowhouse Primary in Falkirk, said: “Magic Breakfast has become an integral part of our school routine. When children haven’t eaten their breakfast, be it because they haven’t had time or there was nothing in the cupboard that morning, we can’t expect them to be ready to learn. Magic Breakfast ensures every child has the opportunity to start their day with fuel for learning.”

Jon Franklin, Chief Economist at PBE, added: “School breakfast provision may be one of the most cost-effective ways the Scottish Government can ensure greater earning potential for pupils in schools with high levels of disadvantaged children.

“For the price of a few bagels, beans and teacher time - breakfast provision costs just £180 per pupil to run each year – we estimate school breakfasts can generate £9,200 of long-term benefits per child for the economy, a number the Scottish Government can’t ignore.”


For further information please contact:

[email protected] / [email protected]


Report Methodology

The study relies on evidence from the evaluation of Magic Breakfast’s model of school breakfast provision by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). IFS use the results of standardised Key Stage 1 tests, completed at age 6-7 in England, to measure the impact of the Magic Breakfast model of breakfast provision on academic outcomes. For this reason, this study focuses on analysing the future potential benefits from improved academic outcomes for children at this particular age. Whilst there may be similar benefits for children of other ages, Pro Bono Economics and Magic Breakfast have taken the cautious approach of not including any estimate for these in our study.

The evidence of improved academic outcomes at Key Stage 1 was then linked to a Department for Education study which calculates the long term economic benefits of improved Key Stage 1 attainment.

This provided evidence on the likely long term economic benefits of Magic Breakfast’s intervention. These economic benefits are a result of increased earnings for the individuals supported as well as reduced costs incurred by government for truancy, exclusions and Special Educational Needs.

Using a robust methodology, the findings were then applied to children of the equivalent age group in Scotland.

[1] Referred to in the report as ‘pupils completing Key Stage 1’, which is the English equivalent

[2] Long term economic benefits calculation:

NOTE: Savings have been discounted to age 6.

Calculating £200million figure:

[3] In order to calculate the £200million figure for Scotland, Magic Breakfast and Pro Bono Economics first calculated the total number of pupils attending primary schools in disadvantaged areas of Scotland. These are defined as schools meeting the eligibility criteria for Magic Breakfast support (schools that have at least 55 per cent of pupils in SIMD Deciles 1 to 4).

The total number of pupils at these schools is 154,513. In Scotland children age 6-7 are in Primary 3. Primary 3 was therefore determined to be the equivalent of Year 2 in England. Data was then used from the Scottish Government’s School Level Summary Statistics 2019 ( to ascertain how many Primary 3 pupils attend schools that meet Magic Breakfast’s eligibility criteria. The number is 22,103. If the benefits of these children receiving school breakfasts for one year is £9,230, then the cumulative long-term economic benefits for Scotland are £204,010,690.

About Magic Breakfast

●      Magic Breakfast is a registered charity providing healthy breakfasts to children in the UK who arrive at school too hungry to learn, and expert support to their schools. The charity works with over 960 Primary, Secondary, ASL/Special Educational Needs Schools and Pupil Referral Units in disadvantaged areas of England and Scotland, to offer free breakfast to around 167,000 children to ensure they start the school day with the energy and nutrition they need to make the most of their morning lessons.

●      Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Magic Breakfast has continued to support schools, adapting their in-school breakfast provision model and working with schools to offer take-home packs as well as home deliveries for vulnerable or hard-to-reach children through their partnership with Amazon. This ensures children at risk of hunger continue to have access to a nutritious breakfast whether at home or in school.

About Pro Bono Economics

●      Pro Bono Economics uses economics to empower the social sector and to increase wellbeing across the UK. They combine project work for individual charities and social enterprises with policy research that can drive systemic change. Working with 400 volunteer economists, they have supported over 500 charities since their inception in 2009.