Free breakfast idea to improve grades for Suffolk school pupils

SUFFOLK could introduce free breakfasts for primary school pupils in a bid to improve attainment levels.

Education chiefs are monitoring a pilot scheme in Blackpool in which 12,000 schoolchildren have been given free meals to start the day.

Graham Newman, cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, said the scheme could form part of the Raising the Bar initiative.

The push aims to raise attainment, better identify what skills Suffolk firms need and adapt teaching accordingly.

Figures released last month revealed Suffolk is now ranked the third worst-performing authority in the country when it comes to primary education.

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Mr Newman said: 'I need to look at Blackpool and look at the results and see where we can go with it.

'But it could be part of the Raising the Bar initiative. Everyone is up for trying out and testing new things. Clearly some new things have to be looked at.

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'We have to see what results Blackpool have got – if it's good we should look at how we can facilitate it.'

Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: 'We've got some specific circumstances – a third of our families are below the poverty line and there is long-standing anecdotal evidence about children coming in so hungry they just sit and wait for the lunch bell to go.

'As times get tougher in terms of the recession we felt now was the time to act. It's a three-month pilot project but I hope it goes well beyond that.'

Magic Breakfast, a charity that provides free food to 6,000 schoolchildren a day, says 93pc of teachers reported breakfast clubs have led to better concentration in class.

Schools are given a 'pupil premium' by the Government for the most disadvantaged children but it is up to headteachers whether or not that funding is spent on breakfast clubs.

Suffolk-based Chris Harrison, former president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: 'Suffolk is focusing very heavily on raising the level of attainment, particularly with primary-age children.

'Schools will always want to, as far as possible, create a level playing field so learning can take place. If children arrive hungry they are not ready and fit to learn.'

Graham White, Suffolk secretary of the NUT, said: 'I'm not jumping up and down [about this initiative] but I'm not condemning it either.

'But Suffolk should look at it as a principle, talk to individual teachers and see what they think and see whether that money is better spent on resources or breakfast clubs.'

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