School meal rules should apply to academies - parents

Healthy school lunch

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Parents want meals in academies and free schools to be bound by the same nutrition standards as those in local authority schools, a report suggests.

Some 92% of parents polled also said they wanted an independent body to ensure the standards were met.

Academies and free schools in England are not bound by government regulations on school food.

Jamie Oliver, who campaigns for better school meals, urged the government "to do something positive with the data".

The TV chef supports demands for legislation on school meal nutrition to apply to all schools. Currently academies and free schools are expected to comply with the standards on a voluntary basis.

Almost three-quarters of the parents polled (73%) also said they believed no students except sixth-formers should be allowed out at lunchtime with 35% saying they thought that even sixth-formers should have to stay on site for lunch.

Standard concerns

Some 83% of the 12,000 parents who responded to an online poll agreed that schools in areas of deprivation should be given extra money for their catering service.

A quarter of the parents polled said they wanted breakfasts to be provided by schools. More than 8% of secondary school parents admitted their children left home without breakfast.

Despite the enthusiasm for good nutrition, more than half of the parents polled (57%) said they did not know whether their child's school was definitely meeting the standards.

Some 91% of parents said they were very happy with the school meals service they received, with almost three-quarters (72%) saying the quality of the food was key and 87% saying they found school meals good value for money.

The survey was carried out for the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) and the online dinner money company ParentPay.

Clint Wilson, of ParentPay, said school meals staff were "on the front line in tackling public health issues".

He added: "What we need now is for the government to support this agenda with the same conviction as the industry and the same passion as our parents."

Anne Bull, of LACA, said: "While much has been achieved as the result of the hard work of schools and caterers, additional measures to enhance this progress would help children and young people achieve their potential both academically and physically."

Judy Hargadon, of Children's Food Trust, said: "What really comes through here is how much parents want the reassurance of knowing that the food their child is being offered at school will be tasty and affordable, but also nutritious - which is why school food standards have such a key part to play...

"It's great to see such support from parents for 'stay on site' policies, which mean that children aren't going out of school at lunchtime, taking away the temptation to go out and buy things like crisps, sweets and sugary drinks for lunch rather than food that will fuel them up well for the afternoon."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Some maintained schools and academies have said that they find the food standards too bureaucratic, difficult to administer and rigid.

"Many academies are actually exceeding the standards and are offering their pupils very high quality, nutritional food. We have asked independent reviewers to consider the best way to help all schools offer good, well-balanced food.

"It is encouraging to see that the majority of parents are satisfied with schools meals and see them as affordable. The quality of school food is absolutely vital. That is why we are looking at the role that food and cooking plays in schools and how this can help to get our children eating well."

Shadow children's minister Sharon Hodgson, said: "This just shows Michael Gove is totally out of touch with the views of parents. They understand that school meals should be healthy and nutritious whatever type of school you attend - but Michael Gove has exempted over a million children from healthy meals.

"Labour would change that, so that the rules developed with Jamie Oliver would apply to every school in England."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    "A quarter of the parents polled said they wanted breakfasts to be provided by schools." - Those 3,000 parents should be ashamed of themselves. Why should schools be providing breakfasts? I'll wager most of those 3,000 parents children already receive free school meals too, looking for another incentive not to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Free school meals for all, I would say, following good nutritional standards, and varied menus throughout the week, applicable to all schools, whether academies or not. Children can be trained into the system, and it may even bring a little of the discipline that is so often demanded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    29.Mike - "......a potential waste of money monitoring it........What we need is an OFPAR to montior and control what parents feed their kids."

    Your 2nd idea has some merit, but as you;ve complained about the cost of monitoring schools how can you suggest the mamoth task of monitoring parents...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Good work parents. Now campaign to get Jamie Oliver back as he had the right nutritional info, his only 'crime' was he supported Labour and not Gove's party, now while you are at it get campaigning against the price of school uniforms and and the employment of unqualified teaching staff and a barmy Education Minister trying to take education back to the 1950's, I know I was there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Load of fuss over nothing and a potential waste of money monitoring it. A child eats about 195 meals at school during the year. They eat about a further 900 meals int that year so at best we are trying to control only 20% of their intake.What we need is an OFPAR to montior and control what parents feed their kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    All the time we hear about obesity levels rising in children all schools including academies and free schools should be duty bound to provide healthy food for their students.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    That stuff on the plate in the above article looks like vomit from my dog.
    Still, we do have to teach these beastly working class people how to feed their brats, don't we. It is the duty of the middle class leftie to make them raise their standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Does it not rather depend on the age of the pupils?

    After about 14, 16 at latest, it's their business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Again legislation is not the answer.

    Decent, accountable, headteachers are all that is required here who can manage their school properly. Schools ought to look after their pupils' health properly without the need for rules which, once met, would be take focus away from real improvement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I agree with the comments that children should be kept within the confines of the school during the school day. School kids in supermarkets at lunchtime is a nightmare for the public and the supermarket assistants.

    No doubt some smarty pants in Europe will decide it's a breach of their human rights to be kept within the scool all day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The 8% of parents who admitted their child leaves home without breakfast should be held to account. If they know, then they must be there with the child in the morning. If you're short on time, GET UP EARLIER!!!
    All Parents should provide lunch for their child whilst at school. Those who have been means tested and proved that they cannot afford to can be subsidised with free school meals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It is simply quite amazing how Gove keeps bleating on about the excellence of Academies ...but somehow allows them to exist as if in a world of their if, for all sense and purpose they are NOT part of the educational system of this country and that somehow they are SPECIAL ...and thus can DO WHAT THEY WANT.
    This circle does not square......and it draws doubt to all his other policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    So basically, we invent academies that don't have to obey the same rules as regular schools because of some misguided notion that that will make them better; we then spend x amount of years putting those rules back into place.

    Just so we're clear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    There are now nearly more types of schools that there are schools. Seems a bit daft that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If they apply NHS standards that a portion of apple pie counts as one of your five a day or that McDonalds can openly advertise a fruit juice drink for children made from concentrate with zero nutritional value also as one of your five a day, then this charter is on a hiding to nothing. Even my gym sell cakes, coffee and coca cola as do hospitals, talk about hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Children should be kept in school until they are at least 15.
    It suits schools let children out because they don't need as many teachers to supervise.
    It's lazy practice.
    Maybe, but holding people against their will is an offence in this country. Unless of course it's punishment for a crime....

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The foods standards should be a threshold that schools should exceed rather than just meet. They should be a clear and well structured formula that is easy to interpret.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I work for an Academy and the food is far superior to the days when it was a local authority school and light years away from school dinners when I was at school. The school is in a deprived area and does serve breakfast for those who want it but I can't help thinking that those parents who are complaining, maybe should be feeding their children properly at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Are these the parents who's children are in academies, or some parents who took part in the online poll (i.e. when to the website that hosted online poll) because they did not like academies in the first place?

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Far better to scrap school dinners and let schools concentrate on the core activity of teaching kids something. Parents should be the ones responsible for feeding their children properly.


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