Over half of teachers fear a rise in hunger among children returning to school in September
Coalition of breakfast food companies and distributors back calls by teachers and magic breakfast charity for a permanent government-led school breakfast programme
Friday 17th July, 2020: Magic Breakfast charity has today published a YouGov survey of teachers, highlighting the impact of hunger on children’s learning during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in schools with high levels of disadvantage. The survey was commissioned by a group of food companies and distributors which support Magic Breakfast through gift in kind donations – Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, New York Bakery Co.
The survey found that:
- 57% of teachers surveyed anticipate there will be an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry in September 2020, compared to September 2019. In schools with above average levels of disadvantage, this rises to 64% of teachers.
- 64% of teachers surveyed think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures. This rises to 79% of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.
- The survey also asked teachers what policies they support to tackle child hunger. Teachers overwhelmingly want firm action taken to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free school breakfast. The survey found that:
- 86% of teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the school term.
- 74% of teachers surveyed believe that school breakfasts will help children catch up on learning. This rises to 83% of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.
These findings reinforce previous research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Education Endowment Foundation which found that Year 2 pupils in schools with a universal, free school breakfast provision made two months’ additional academic progress in one year, compared to children in schools with no such breakfast provision.
In light of the survey results, Magic Breakfast’s CEO, Alex Cunningham, has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, to call for urgent action on school breakfasts. Magic Breakfast is calling on the Government to bring forward school breakfast legislation to guarantee schools with high levels of disadvantage the long term, sustained support they need to provide free school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger.
This call has been backed by Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, and the New York Bakery Co. who have been working with Magic Breakfast to get breakfast food to children throughout the pandemic, whether they are at school or under lockdown at home.
Magic Breakfast’s CEO, Alex Cunningham, said: “After months of school closures, it is deeply worrying that so many children are expected to return to school too hungry to catch up on the learning they have missed out on. Without Government action, these children will fall even further behind and the education attainment gap will continue to widen. During the pandemic, we have rightly applauded teachers who have gone above and beyond for their pupils. Now we must act to address their concerns. Legislation is urgently needed to guarantee children at risk of hunger have access to a free healthy school breakfast, unlocking hours of learning and enabling them to reach their full potential”.
Nicola Noble, co-Head Teacher of Surrey Square Primary School in London, said: “The results of this survey reflect the challenges I have experienced at my school. Many of our families are struggling to put food on the table as a result of COVID-19 related income and job losses and are looking to the school for help. With support from Magic Breakfast, we have been able to provide free school breakfasts to children at risk of hunger since 2011 and I’ve seen first-hand the difference this makes. Pupils start the day with full stomachs, feeling settled and calm, and are better behaved and more able to concentrate on lessons. This will make a massive difference as we begin the task of supporting wellbeing and catching up on missed learning, come September.”
Robert Halfon, Member of Parliament for Harlow, said, “As Chair of the Education Select Committee I’ve heard evidence from many teachers about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged children. This is why I campaigned to keep free school meal vouchers over the summer and the Government were absolutely right to do this through the Covid Summer Food Fund. It is good news there is a £500m Hardship Fund that parents can access from their local council as well as a £9 million Holiday and Activities Food Programme. Given the findings from Magic Breakfast’s survey, I hope the Department for Education will carefully consider how best to support disadvantaged children from September onwards. It is also my hope that more money will be put into school breakfast provision across the country, as we know that we can advance learning by up to two months’ progress over the course of a year, if children have a healthy breakfast.”
The Government currently funds school breakfasts through the National School Breakfast Programme, which is implemented by Magic Breakfast and Family Action. The Programme has demonstrated a positive impact on children’s ability to learn, however, it reaches roughly 20% of the 1.8 million school age children at risk of hunger in the UK, and it is due to end in March 2021.
Notes to Editors
- This poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Magic Breakfast and with support from Arla, Heinz, Kellogg’s, and New York Bakery Co. The survey was live between 20 June 2020 and 29 June 2020. 725 primary and secondary school teachers from England and Scotland responded.
- Schools with above average levels of disadvantage were defined as schools with more than 20% of pupils eligible for free school meals. This was self-reported by teachers responding to the survey. 15.4% of pupils are eligible for free school meals nationally. 308 teachers responding to the survey reported they worked at a school with above average levels of disadvantage.
- Other key findings:
- 80% of teachers surveyed think school closures due to Covid-19 have negatively affected their pupils’ educational attainment. This rises to 86% of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.
- 79% of teachers surveyed think COVID-19 has negatively affected their pupils’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
- 76% of teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the holidays
- 65% of teachers surveyed think the government isn’t doing enough to support children at risk of hunger.
- To download full survey results, please CLICK HERE.
About Magic Breakfast
- Magic Breakfast is a registered charity providing healthy breakfasts and wrap-around support to children in the UK who arrive at school too hungry to learn. The charity works with 480 schools in disadvantaged areas of England and Scotland, normally ensuring that more than 48,400 children start their school day with the energy and nutrition they need to be able to make the most of their morning lessons.
- Magic Breakfast has continued to provide healthy breakfasts to children at risk of hunger during the Covid-19 crisis, whether at school or home. Food for breakfast packs has been delivered to the charity’s partner schools (or local hubs) for collection by families or distribution by school staff or volunteers to children’s homes. In addition, Amazon have been delivering parcels of breakfast food to the doorsteps of families who would be difficult to reach otherwise. Breakfast deliveries will continue throughout the school summer holidays.
- Before the coronavirus pandemic, as many as 1.8 million school age children in the UK were at risk of hunger in the morning.1
- According to the Food Foundation, food insecurity among children has doubled since COVID-19 began, with 2 million children affected in the first five weeks of lockdown.2
1 Ref: Pereira, A.L., Handa, S. and Holmqvist, G. Prevalence. Correlates of Food Insecurity Among Children Across the Globe, Innocenti Working Paper, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. 2017.
2 Ref: Food Foundation. May 2020, https://foodfoundation.org.uk/vulnerable_groups/food-foundation-polling-third-survey-five-weeks-into-lockdown/