Policy roundtable on school breakfasts at Westminster

Free school breakfasts – will the government prioritise or pass up? Decipher’s Dr. Hannah Littlecott visited the House of Commons to discuss.

David Holmes, CBE; Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan, MP; Carmel McConnell, MBE

On 4th September 2019 I travelled, by invitation, to the House of Commons to contribute to a policy roundtable discussion on the provision of free school breakfasts. I was invited by an organisation called Magic Breakfast, founded by Carmel McConnell MBE. During the meeting, we heard from a variety of stakeholders, such as a school principal who outlined her experience of delivering school breakfasts and her perceptions of how they have impacted upon health and wellbeing and education.

I was also asked to give a five-minute overview of our research showing a link between breakfast consumption and educational outcomes among 9-11 year old children (https://bit.ly/2m0DbRm). This research used data from DECIPHer’s policy trial of the Free School Breakfast Initiative in Wales in 2005, which was referenced as good practice in the Treasury’s 2011 Magenta Handbook (https://bit.ly/2Qu862E) and found that the universal provision of free school breakfasts improved children’s nutritional intake and decreased breakfast skipping among more deprived students (https://bit.ly/2ljHY0s).

It was brilliant to see so many school breakfast advocates in one room’

In attendance at the policy roundtable discussion were MP Nicky Morgan and MP Angela Raynor, so this provided a real chance to use our research findings to advocate for government funding for universal free school breakfast and to highlight that efforts to improve both education and health are aligned. It was brilliant to see so many school breakfast advocates in one room, all putting forward eloquent and convincing arguments and providing a unique opportunity for the UK nations to learn from each other.

By the end of the meeting, it seemed obvious that everyone agreed breakfast provision was a good idea that provided good ‘bang for your buck’ in relation to health and educational outcomes. It remains to be seen whether this will translate to Government policy but, since this meeting was prioritised during a particularly chaotic Brexit-related week in parliament, I am hopeful that this will be the case.

You can support Magic Breakfast’s Fuel Their Future campaign by using this campaigner toolkit (https://bit.ly/2mmRtft) to take action, such as tweeting and writing to your local MP, before 13th October 2019.