The National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP) aimed to provide free, nutritious and universally available breakfast in schools in disadvantaged areas of England.
The Department for Education awarded an initial contract of £24 million to two charities, Family Action and Magic Breakfast, to co-lead the NSBP for a two-year period beginning in 2018.
This evaluation used a mixed methods approach to evaluate the scale-up process of the NSBP, including programme changes made as part of the scale-up process, the costs of the programme and lessons for future scale-up efforts. A previous EEF impact evaluation of the Magic Breakfast programme found that offering pupils in primary schools a free and nutritious meal before school can boost their reading, writing, and maths attainment by an average of two months’ additional progress in Key Stage 1.
- The NSBP successfully recruited 1,811 schools, exceeding the initial target of 1,775 and equalling the revised target. Within these schools the reach of the programme was extensive, with 38.6% of children at NSBP schools served breakfast compared to 6.5% before the intervention started.
- The high degree of direction and support provided to schools by the NSBP was important to the successful reach of the programme. This included financial support in the form of grants, resource-based support through free food and promotional materials, and support provided by trained NSBP staff members (School Partners).
- The scale-up strategy did not sufficiently address sustainability at the strat. The programme focused mainly on expanding the number of schools and pupils receiving breakfast due to tight timelines and ambitious school recruitment, with a lesser focus on ensuring schools would be able to sustain providing breakfast after the initial period of funded support.
- The NSBP addressed most concerns highlighted in the original evaluation of Magic Breakfast published in 2019 and adopted a more flexible approach, encouraging schools to consider a range of breakfast options from the outset rather than primarily endorsing a traditional breakfast club model. Whether adopting alternative models changes the impact of the programme on pupils is unknown and beyond the scope of this evaluation. However, the alternative models promoted by the NSBP reached more pupils, required less staffing, and were cheaper.
- Making school breakfasts accessible was rated highly by NSBP staff conducting breakfast visits and most schools had reasonable strategies to identify and target pupils in need. This resulted in the attendance of disadvantaged pupils equalling or exceeding their non-disadvantaged peers in most schools. But, most schools did attach least a soma charge for school breakfast.