Magic Breakfast, one of the charity partners delivering the government's school breakfast clubs, says funding “falls short” of what is required.
The Department for Education (DfE) has announced an extension of funding for school breakfast clubs in England.
The DfE says £24m will be available to continue government support for school breakfast provision for a further two years, until 2023, and it has put a detailed contract out to tender.
We’re extending funding for school breakfast clubs to help make sure thousands of children have a healthy start to the day.— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) March 15, 2021
£24 million will be available to continue our support for a further 2 years. pic.twitter.com/xz3cxBMncz
Magic Breakfast and Family Action co-deliver the current school breakfast contract for the DfE, which they named the National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP).
At its peak, the NSBP reached around 375,000 children with a healthy breakfast every school day.
The contract started in March 2018 and is due to finish at the end of July 2021, having been extended several times and adapted during the pandemic to take account of lockdowns and school closures.
'The funding announced by the DfE falls short'
“The terms of the new contract, announced today, are significantly different to those of the existing National School Breakfast Programme,” a statement from Magic Breakfast reads.
Alysa Remtulla, head of policy and campaigns at Magic Breakfast, said: “Magic Breakfast welcomes any new funding for school breakfast provision as we continue on our mission to ensure that no child in the UK is too hungry to learn. The funding announced by the DfE today, however, falls short of the proposed School Breakfast Bill which Magic Breakfast is campaigning for.
“The DfE are proposing to support approximately 2,500 schools with short-term funding, however, we believe there are approximately 8,700 schools in disadvantaged areas of England with children at risk of hunger who would benefit from permanent and secure breakfast funding, as set out in the School Breakfast Bill.
“Our priority continues to be ensuring that a government funded school breakfast programme includes expert support for schools to ensure that every child at risk of hunger in those schools receives a healthy breakfast, delivered without barrier or stigma. We look forward to examining the DfE tender document more closely over the coming days, to understand the detail behind this funding announcement.”
Family Action did not directly criticise the government.
David Holmes, chief executive, Family Action said: “We are encouraged to hear that the DfE are funding new breakfast club services for schools in areas of disadvantage from September. Family Action are committed to supporting children to have access to school breakfast without barrier or stigma.
“We are extremely proud of what the NSBP has achieved, feeding over 300,000 children a school breakfast every day. Schools have shared that having a nutritious breakfast has made a real, positive difference to their pupils, helping them to concentrate, improving their readiness to learn, behaviour and wellbeing.”
Tender documents state that the chosen supplier will be responsible for “recruiting schools to participate in the programme from an agreed target list provided”, and providing breakfast provision to schools “that adhere to the government’s school food standards”.
The supplier will also have to design, implement and manage “appropriate and accessible user interface channels to enable schools to order the breakfast provision”. Organisations have until 16 April to bid.
Labour: ‘This is a pitiful response’
Labour’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green, described the new funding as “pitiful” and said it was not enough to support the number of children who need the breakfast clubs.
She said: “This is a pitiful response to Labour’s call for a universal breakfast club offer for every child. This funding is likely to provide breakfast club support to just 4% of children which is simply not good enough.”
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, said he was committed to supporting “the most vulnerable children”.
He said: “A good breakfast is vital to giving children the boost they need in the morning so they start school ready to learn. That’s why we are continuing our Breakfast Clubs Programme for pupils across England so that those children in need of extra support do not go without the most important meal of the day.
“Throughout this pandemic our priority has been supporting the most vulnerable children – that’s why we extended support for free school meals for eligible pupils when they were learning from home, expanded our Holiday Activities and Food programme to run all over the country this year and introduced the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to keep families warm and well-fed, all of which ensures targeted support is there for the children who need it most.”
The DfE has also not said how many schools it intends to reach in the next two years of the scheme.