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

    Comment number 73.

    My Nephew (age in single figures) eats just about anything you put in front of him, he even loves a good home made curry with lots of chunky veg in it!!
    This is mostly down to parental guidance, but would NOT have been possible without the backing of his school..... Kids will eat what their friends eat, if schools let kids eat rubbish, then healthy eating at home will soon go out of the window.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    It's laughable that someone like Gove was ever made Education Secretary in the first place. I mean, fancy putting the education of all us plebs in his hands. He'll be bringing in a fagging system next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Having been on a twinning visit to France with my kids we are so far off the pace here. They get a 3 course lunch subsidised greatly, all prepared on site, using mainly locally sourced ingredients and never a frozen item in sight. Govt needs to be more lined up here - invest in quality, help to establish healthy eating and respect for the food we eat and obesity time bomb is defused later!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "Some maintained schools and academies have said that they find the food standards too bureaucratic, difficult to administer and rigid."

    If they can't run something like meals well, what chance have they to organise a proper education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    "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?"

    I guess it's that, while people are generally happy with the standard of school means, they would prefer that they were regulated so that they stay that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Parents always just want it all their own way. Fine, but the same people had better be paying the bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    57. Adrian M Lee
    53. Raymond Hopkins
    Of course we shouldn't let children starve. But skipping breakfast doesn't put you at death's door. Government should step in when there is genuine danger not because the odd parent is a little dim....With rights come responsibilities.
    Including Governmental responsibilities. Let it not leave things until the situation is out of control and past mending.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    57.Adrian M Lee said "Of course we shouldn't let children starve. But skipping breakfast doesn't put you at death's door."

    No, but it doesn't leave you either mentally or physically alert enough to fully concentrate on lessons and getting educated either - which is, after all, why kids are supposed to be in school. A proper nutritional lunch is also essential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    How can we take this report on nutrituion seriously when the authors are obese? Physician heal thyself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Food bullies, guess it is standard treatment of children in schools, bullying. There should always be an edible, yes junk food you food bullies, available instead of the rubbish rabbit food. Let the customer choose not the bullies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    if you allow the free market to be introduced into state education what do you expect, its hardly free if you don't allow them to make choices
    The alternative is you use an EU approach & let the free market in then heavily regulate it to try & ensure quality & fairness but then everyone complains its too intrusive

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    When I was at school in the 80s+90s, nobody was allowed out of the school during the day, so people had packed lunches or school dinners. Of course back then school dinners were not privatised, they were fairly decent quality and cooked on-site rather than shipped in and reheated. All schools should be forced to abide by the nutrition standards, it makes no sense for some to be able to opt out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I think those asking for this are on a hiding to nothing. the whole point of academies / free schools is that they operate outside of local government control, for good or ill.
    Soon there will be no state schools as such andit will be the state that has to cater for those pupils that academies / free schools don`t want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Here is a suggestion.

    All children should be handed over to state upon birth and then given back to the parents when they reach the age of 18.

    There are too many rights and not enough responsibilities in the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Gove is one of the most narrow minded politicians out there. Thousands are spent by the previous administration bringing food standards up through Oliver's campaign, Gove rocks up and starts again, employs a mate he holidayed (Henry Dimbleby) to undertake another review, costings thousands more. The man is arrogance personified.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Excuse me, but what right do the government have in this? Parents can advise the kids themselevs - i think the government had more pressing matters than if Little Timmy decided to have chips.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    53. Raymond Hopkins

    Of course we shouldn't let children starve. But skipping breakfast doesn't put you at death's door. Government should step in when there is genuine danger not because the odd parent is a little dim.

    Were that the case we would have state intervention on a daily basis in a huge amount of households. Not practicable and not desirable.

    With rights come responsibilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    My daughter frequently comments that school food is bland and boring, and that it requires considerable organisation to obtain and eat it in the time allowed. It was far better when children got a set 2-course 'school dinner' rather than messing around with a cash cafeteria system, they got a hot meal, learned to eat what they were given, and were fed ready for the afternoon's classes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Surely rules governing things that are health related, or safety related, or (dare I say it) health and safety related should apply to all schools regardless of status.

    I appreciate the management and financial independence of acadamies, but certain rules should surely be global for all children.

    This whole situation seems odd to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Schools aren't there to feed children;that's the parents' job. If they're too lazy to get up and give childen breakfast so their kids go to school hungry, I suggest their benefits are stopped and the money used to pay for school meals..

    Some of this stuff about nutritious school meals is made up; some parents can't be bothered to cook at any time - ask what their kids eat in school holidays.


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