School meal rules should apply to academies - parents

 
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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
    +4

    Comment number 53.

    Here's the thing, if you're a parent it is your responsibility to give your child breakfast not the government's.
    __
    Hard to disagree, except that if parents are not doing their job, someone needs to step in and ensure that the gap is filled. For the sake of the children, you know. It's a matter of some importance. Let not poor Nelly starve, sort of thing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 52.

    At my daughters academy, only sixth formers are allowed out during the day. Also school meals are inexpensive, less than £2 a day gets her a 2 course lunch and drink. Additionally the cashless system logs everything she buys and sends us an e-mail weekly, as to what has been purchased.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 51.

    Only Cameron and his brainless Cronies would allow different standards for Free Schools.
    They think that the are at Posh boys School Eton or Harrow.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 50.

    25. blagshaw said: "Schools ought to look after their pupils' health properly without the need for rules."

    Yes, yes - and hospital cleaning companies 'ought' to leave hospital wards spotless and MPs 'ought' to be above fiddling expenses and exam boards 'ought' to maintain exam marking rigour - and there ought to be a fairy on the christmas tree.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 49.

    French schools send the menus home to parents at least a week in advance so that they know what their children will eat. The school kitchens are proud of what they produce, and the cooks are proud of their job.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 48.

    It's completely nonsensical and stupid that LA schools should be expected to follow the standard and yet academies and free schools are allowed by Mr Gove to "opt out". The comment from the DfE official beggars belief. What this is all about is letting schools do anything they want at all provided they don't want to be part of the local authority.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 47.

    How can head teachers and their staff be held accountable for what children choose to eat whilst at school. It's not their job to manage the diets of children who would rather eat chips every day than a healthy meal provided by the school.

    If children were taught from an early age to eat real food and not chips and burgers all the time we would not be having this discussion.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 46.

    40. Avalon
    __
    I wouldn't disagree in principle, but there would be a need to ensure that all pupils actually eat the school meal, whatever it contains. (Yes, I can see the problems with that). The essential point is that children must be adequately fed.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 45.

    According to this survey, 91% of parents polled were very happy with the school meals service they received.

    That being the case, what is this article actually about?

    Here's the thing, if you're a parent it is your responsibility to give your child breakfast not the government's.

    Moreover, I do not want Jamie Oliver or some other 'Celeb' telling me what I can and can't feed my children.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 44.

    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.

    ------

    I simply don't believe those figures.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 43.

    As made clear in Jamie's School Dinners years ago...

    If you don't feed children properly they can't work and learn properly, it stunts development.

    It's a national scandal we are still not doing this.

    Not feeding properly should be classed as a form of abuse, other forms of harm are, why not poor feeding?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 42.

    It is a no brainer that all the same rules and regulations should apply even-handedly to both state-run schools *and* Academy schools. That means both nutritional standards and regarding employment of qualified teachers. Anything else is a dereliction of duty to the students by govt (and Gove).

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 41.

    "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."

    Surely these decent headteachers would strive to exceed the standard set by the rules, being decent headteachers and all?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 40.

    @32.Raymond Hopkins, actually I would charge all but the poorest families a nominal amount (£2/day) with this going to help cover the costs of the more expensive healthier foods and in bulk from local sources. It could also be used to boost the wages of the kitchen staff.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 39.

    An adequate across-the-board standard of quality (#35) is precisely what is needed, whether in school meals or anything else. Indeed, it is an idea that could well be taken up in other areas of life. The other alternative is to make everything private, and pay for it as needed. Or is there a real compromise between the two? Not, I suspect, on current evidence.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 38.

    My son takes a packed lunch as school meals are ridiculously expensive and poor quality. They are supposed to be subsidised by the government so I have no idea why they cost so much. Is it yet another example of someone making vast profits from the tax payer?

    My partner is a teacher and had to complain recently as the children were served battered fish, with no fish in it just batter. Literally.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 37.

    31.Little_Old_Me

    You are right

    Forgot the exclamation mark. I wasn't been serious as monitoring parents would be an immense task. I was just trying (and failing!) to point out there is more to this than what schools do.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 36.

    I work in an Academy school and we abide by the rules. However the catering companies need to be imaginative and innovative when it comes to the food they serve. My school has to compete with the huge Tesco store that the LA allowed to be build on School land and parents.

    Parents also have a responsibility here and should not expect schools to bring their kids up for them

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    12. "Fragmenting the education system in the way in which academies has done is an abdication of responsibility by the government."

    It seems to be a fad lately: offer "choice" in public services, rather than an adequate across-the-board standard of quality. Remember when they started talking about choice in the NHS? That went well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    The Academy program was halted by Gove. It was one of the few areas where £ investment resulted in real improved attainment.

    Gove applied the Academy label to his sceme for releasing Schools from LA influence. "standards" will be higher because the Head is more incontrol. All very public schoolboy and those pleby teachers need to know place.

    Provided standards rise the students can starve.

 

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