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Primary Education News
News Kellogg's survey warns of rise in hungry pupils denied breakfast 'brain fuel'
Food firm behind breakfast clubs claims 26% of teachers see primary school pupils fall asleep in class from lack of food
More than a quarter of state school teachers in England and Wales have seen an increase in the last 12 months of children turning up in class hungry having had no breakfast, a survey reveals.
The study, entitled Lost Education, attempts to evaluate the damage to learning and concludes that in the worse cases pupils could be missing out on eight weeks of their primary school life due to regular hunger.
The report was commissioned by the food company Kellogg's, which also sets up breakfast clubs. It claims that 2.4 pupils in each class turn up for school at least once a week without having had breakfast, so are unable to concentrate. This puts increased demand on teachers' time.
Primary and secondary teachers report that if children arrive at school hungry they will typically lose one hour of learning time that day due to loss of concentration.
If a child arrived at school hungry once a week over a school year that would add up to 36 hours of learning time – rising to 8.4 weeks, or 70% of one school term for pupils aged five to 11 over their entire primary school life.
Teachers say that the impact of hunger on lost learning hours increases as children reach secondary school.
Hungry children are also said to be more lethargic and find it difficult to learn, and 26% of teachers have reported seeing children fall asleep in the classroom through lack of food or drink.
These effects can have a knock-on effect on other children, says the survey, which questioned 762 teachers and was weighted to reflect the national school population.
The presence of hungry children in the classroom, 55% of teachers said, has a negative impact on the learning of their peers, creating a lost education for many pupils across the UK.
Last year a separate survey by Kellogg's revealed that a sixth of teachers admitted to spending up to £25 a month buying bread, fruit and snacks to feed pupils who attend school without first having eaten breakfast.
Pete Mountstephen, chairman of the National Primary Headteachers Association, said: "It's a shocking fact that children in our classrooms across the country are missing out on the very foundations of their education by not being fed in the morning."
Kellogg's is using the findings to bolster the case for increasing the network of school breakfast clubs. Over the last 10 years it has set up more than 1,000 breakfast clubs, serving more than two million breakfasts each year to children who need them most. New clubs receive a £400 cheque or grant, food vouchers and a training pack.
A separate YouGov survey of 2,000 parents shows that 12% of parents who do not offer their children breakfast say it is because they do not have time, and 38% say their children shun breakfast. But 52% of parents admit they do not have as much money to spend on food compared to last year.
Paul Wheeler, a Kellogg's director, said: "We have become more and more concerned about the effect that the vital lack of brain fuel, in the morning, is having.
"Kellogg's commissioned this study to uncover the extent of children affected by this problem."
Siobhan Freegard, founder of the website Netmums, said: "A combination of parental apathy and poverty is leading to this increased problem of more children than ever going to school hungry. At every turn, from school teachers to parents in the playground, we are hearing more and more reports of kids hungry at school.
"A toxic combination of growing poverty, the rising cost of living and troubled families with chaotic parenting, means innocent children are being denied the best start to the day, and to their lives. This is unacceptable in modern Britain and must be tackled now."