FROM today there will be no more excuses for being hungry in lessons.
The majority of Blackpool’s 12,000 primary school pupils will be offered the chance to tuck into a healthy breakfast before embarking on their school day.
The town is leading the way in tackling what has been identified as one of the main barriers to learning – an empty stomach.
A menu comprising fruit juice, yoghurts, cereal bars or cereal and milk, fruit, bagels and toast is being rolled out so every child aged four to 11 will get a healthy start to the day.
Cath Woodall, headteacher at Revoe School on Grasmere Road, which launched its breakfast club yesterday, said: “We had a choice of menus and from that chose fruit juice and whole fruit, which will be either bananas or apples.
“We will also have bagels, cereals bars and toast and rotate it so the children don’t have the same thing every day.
“Our breakfasts are being served in the school dining room but there will also be a trolley available for those children who arrive a little later, but everyone will have had their breakfast by 9.15am in time for registration at 9.30am.
“Punctuality and attendance at our school isn’t the best so we hope the scheme will improve that.
“A lot of the parents think it’s a good idea. I have had one who has written to me saying she thinks it’s insulting to their parenting skills, but it’s about the children, and if they need it, they need it – and a lot of our children do.
“What we want is to make sure every single child in the school has a good, balanced diet.
“It’s important at the beginning of the day because literacy and maths lessons are in the morning, and we need the pupils to be alert.”
Catherine Newman, of Gloucester Avenue, looks after her granddaughter Ellie-Louise, four, who is a pupil at Revoe and she thinks the scheme is a great idea.
Mrs Newman said: “I do make sure Ellie-Louise has her breakfast and usually she has cereal.
“But when they first get up, children don’t want to eat and I have to hurry her along in order to get to school on time.
“If she could have breakfast at school, she would be more likely to eat it if all her friends are having it too.
“Breakfast is important to children because if they don’t eat anything, they won’t learn as well. It is the most important meal of the day.”
Bethany Smith, nine, and Olivia Erwin, 10, were enjoying fruit juice and cereal bars as part of their breakfast at Revoe.
Bethany said: “I have had cereals at home, but sometimes even after that my stomach is rumbling in lessons which is really embarrassing, and I can’t concentrate if I’m hungry.”
Olivia added: “I do gymnastics so I know I have to eat healthily for that so I think this is a really good idea.”
The £700,000 scheme, which also includes free milk at morning break, will run as a pilot for three months but the council hopes to extend it and attract a sponsor.
Last month a report by The Children’s Society revealed nearly half of UK teachers are seeing hungry children going into schools.
The Food for Thought survey also found 98 per cent of teachers who took part in the national survey believe all children in poverty should receive a free school meal, and two thirds said staff provided pupils with food or money if they went to school hungry.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “There will be no discrimination between those families who can afford it and those who cannot, every pupil will be able to start their school day fed and ready to learn.
“It is really important as many parents as possible take up this new service – it will save them cash every week they can spend elsewhere in the local economy, and makes a huge collective effort to get our kids in school bright and early, and ready to learn.
“Our initial pilot covers free breakfasts and milk in primary schools but we’d like to see this eventually extended to include secondary schools and universal free lunches.”
The majority of primary schools are providing free breakfasts from today with others to join up by, at the latest, the start of the second half of the spring term.
President of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) Steve Iredale, said the scheme would have a huge impact.
He added: “This is an issue on which central government and local government have got to sit down and act and we would be delighted to work with them on it.
“For too long it’s something we have reflected on, but now it’s time to do something about it.”