County watches school breakfast trial

County is looking at a breakfast scheme in Blackpool to see if it's worth doing here, but Ixworth Primary school already have this in place
County is looking at a breakfast scheme in Blackpool to see if it's worth doing here, but Ixworth Primary school already have this in place

The power of toast as a learning aid is being investigated by Suffolk County Council

But while county education chiefs monitor a free school breakfast trial in Blackpool, some heads in the county are already convinced it works.

In Blackpool all 12,000 primary school children are being offered a breakfast, irrespective of their circumstances, for three months.

Graham Newman, county cabinet member for education and young people, said: “The cost to that authority will be £700,000. If this was scaled up for Suffolk, where we have over 50,000 primary school children, the cost would be about £10 million per annum. Realistically, this equates to a four per cent rise in Council Tax!”

Blackpool’s percentage of children qualifying for free school meals is about twice that of Suffolk, which is trying to get a better take-up of free meals which attracts a Government Pupil Premium payment.

But Cllr Newman added: “There is continued interest in the potential for improvement in behaviour and learning (and indeed at exam performance) by ensuring children have had a breakfast at the start of the day.”

Ixworth Primary is one of a handful of Suffolk schools which run a breakfast club for children parents who leave early for work and head Anna Richards has no doubt that children benefit from a good breakfast.

“It’s a positive start to the school day and they really are ready to learn when the school day proper starts,” she said.

Where children have missed breakfast their attention can wander.

“When it happens we do give them breakfast,” Mrs Richards said. “They’re better off spending a few minutes out of the classroom for a couple of pieces of toast than having them worrying about food.”

Parents have to pay to cover the breakfast club’s costs but Blackpool-style breakfast for all would be welcomed at Ixworth.

Mrs Richards said: “It’s something we would be keen to do if we had proper funding. We would need a pretty big toaster, though.”