Breakfast fitness for healthy pupils

Devonshire Road Primary School pupils Jaime-Leigh 'Potter, nine, and Gabrielle Taylor, 10, on the opening day of the scheme.
Devonshire Road Primary School pupils Jaime-Leigh 'Potter, nine, and Gabrielle Taylor, 10, on the opening day of the scheme.
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Blackpool’s pioneering free school breakfasts scheme has been given the green light to continue – meaning all primary pupils will still have the chance of getting fuelled up first thing in the morning.

And to improve the scheme, schools are to get a fitness programme to boost the children’s health.

Blackpool Council’s executive committee took just five minutes to vote unanimously – without further debate – to continue funding the programme next year after it was evaluated by a team from Northumbria University.

The study used questionnaires and interviews with children, parents and teachers.

Dr Margaret Defreyter director of the Healthy Living division at the university said it was having a positive effect and children on the scheme ate more healthy food than those who were not part of the pilot.

She said: “The overall findings of the evaluation are very positive and based on these findings I strongly recommend the scheme continues.”

The estimated cost of the scheme for 2013/2014 is £1.3m which includes £800,000 from the Public Health budget. Including secondary schools in the scheme, at a cost of £2.1m, will be considered in the future.

The council report set out recommendations for improving the scheme to have a more beneficial effect on the children which included linking the healthy breakfasts to physical activity.

It is also to look at introducing an online exercise and dance resource into all schools called Cyber Coach Smart, which aims to improve the fitness and physical activity of the pupils.

Improvements planned for the schools scheme

- The council is going to review the timing and duration of the breakfast sessions, starting them earlier to decrease the chance of children eating two breakfasts and to allow more time for the children to eat.

- It is also to attempt to evaluate the scheme’s effect on children’s learning and mental abilities.

- The council will examine the menu to reduce sugar levels, and will review locations within school to avoid intrusion into classroom space.

- Adopting the scheme has resulted in an extra 77 hours a day for the 62 school catering staff and an income of £120,000 for the local supplier of groceries.