Did you know 1 in 3 children in Britain lives in poverty, in London, that’s 4 in 10! That is one of the highest rates in industrialised country: shocking in such a well resourced country. And did you know the government has a commitment to end child poverty by 2020? But under current administration, increasing numbers of children rely on breakfast clubs held at their schools because their parents cannot afford to provide despite working incredibly hard for their families (Yes, in modern Britain).
A breakfast club is a safe place where children can enjoy breakfast with teachers and classmates before school, but it serves a wider purpose just providing breakfast. A study has shown that breakfast clubs are associated with sustained improvement in academic performance! Unfortunately, budget cuts have led to increasing closures of breakfast clubs across the country despite best efforts from charity groups (and even teachers paying out of their own pockets); schools just simply cannot afford to sustain these clubs. Subsequently, children from this vulnerable group are stuck in a vicious cycle of low concentration, behaviour problems, and low attainment. This is a problem with a solution!
In March 2010, Child Poverty Act came into force, which requires the Secretary of State to consider which groups of children in the UK are disproportionately affected by socio-economic disadvantage, and to consider the likely impact of government policy on children in these groups. In other words this gives legal force to the government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Issue with breakfast clubs is just the tip of the iceberg. The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated that if current policies continue, child poverty will rise by an average of around 100,000 each year. It is high time we speak up for this vulnerable group and create change for the better for these children.
At the recent Conservative Party conference, David Cameron said, “I went to a great school and I want every child to have a great education. I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it." Then why are there children going to school starved!? What is Cameron and his cabinet doing to sort this!?
This is a public outrage and we must speak up for these children.
A breakfast club is a safe place where children can enjoy breakfast with teachers and classmates before school. It often serves a wider purpose than the provision of food; they also provide a calm environment before school, help develop social skills and provide opportunity for additional learning, or provide time to complete homework. Attending a breakfast club may also assist pupils to arrive at school on time, or even encourage them to attend at all.
Some children attend breakfast clubs as their parents need to head off to work. Unfortunately for some children, it is the only chance they will have to eat before lunch time. These children are often from lower socioeconomic background, eligible for free school meals, and only able to have one hot meal a day in school. Those not able to have breakfast would have poor concentration & energy levels in the morning, leading to poor academic performance.
Apart from less hungry children, the perceived benefits of breakfast clubs include greater interactions with other pupils from different age groups, and improved concentration as well as punctuality. Furthermore, prospective quantitative study showed breakfast clubs are associated with sustained improvement in academia. 1 As there is no ring-fenced money for these clubs, schools have to find the money themselves to set them up. Across the UK, increasing number of schools are losing their breakfast clubs over the last 2 years due to government budget cuts.2 Increasing numbers rely on charity groups to keep their breakfast clubs running.
The Child Poverty Act March 2010 gives the Child Poverty Commission the power to request the Secretary of State to carry out research or commission others to carry out independent research, as this will support the Commission's advisory function. Child Poverty Act also requires the Secretary of State, when setting the child poverty strategy, to consider which groups of children in the UK are disproportionately affected by socio-economic disadvantage, and to consider the likely impact of government policy on children in these groups.
This gives legal force to the previous government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and will compel successive governments to account for what they are doing to achieve that goal. The Coalition Agreement also contains a commitment to the child poverty targets for 2020. Issue with breakfast clubs is just the tip of the iceberg on how current policies are affecting children in poverty; if the Coalition’s current policies continue unchanged, child poverty will rise by an average of around 100,000 each year.3 We need to speak up for this vulnerable group and create change for the better for these children.
1. Stevens L, et al. The impact of primary school breakfast clubs in deprived areas of London. Children’s Food Trust (Formerly School Food Trust). Dec 2008
2. Rayner J. Why school breakfast clubs are on the education frontline. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/16/breakfast-clubs-schools-funding?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038 The Guardian; The Observer. Sept 2012
3. End Child Poverty (hosted by Child Poverty Action Group). JOBS, GROWTH AND POVERTY REDUCTION; Budget 2012 briefing from End Child Poverty. 2012