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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  • Comment number 153.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 152.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 151.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Why is there this assumption that parent = layabout who doesn't care about their child and expects the state to do its job? Some parents may be, but they are in the minority. Most parents are capable of feeding their children a healthy balanced diet. All schools have a moral obligation for the child's welfare not just education - if meals are provided, they should be nutrionally balanced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Much publicised on Breakfast time this morning-disappointed with the BBC bias to the reporting-Clearly stated that a large proportion of parents wanted their children not to be allowed to leave the school to have their lunch.However the report that this information is from states that "Parents want pupils kept safe and secure at lunch time" - Didn't mention report was from

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Apart from the lack of adherence to the food standards, the schools are failing to encourage the drinking of water, providing clear access and enforcing basic packed lunch policies to promote concentration at school. The schools have no excuses, the HEALTHY SCHOOLS service delivers training, advice and information for FREE, use it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Since becoming an academy the food in the most recent academy doubled in price without improving the quantity or food value.
    The LEA imposed standards which academies do not have to follow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Councils treat school dinners like a business and provide cheap and nasty swill at excessive prices and create 'school rules' to ensure a lack of choice about it (my sons old school banished those eating bought in sandwiches to the outside benches even in the rain or winter as well as dictating what was allowed).
    If academies treat dinner as a chance to help children learn all will be well.

  • Comment number 145.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    So the government won't force acadamies and free schools to employ qualified teachers, but they will force them to employ nutritionists to ensure that the meals provided are "correctly balanced"!

    I believe that all teachers should be qualified, plus meals should be cooked from basics (no cheap processed rubbish).

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    My sons school became an academy a couple of years ago, at which point they changed the caterers - and the quality of the food on offer is superior from all perspectives (school, pupils, parents). I seriously doubt that the increase in academies is likely to reduce food quality - more the reverse. The online payment system (in place for years) lets you check what your kids are buying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Why is it that this country is continually going backwards instead of forwards! It seems the more advisers, nutritionists, governments that interfere the more things go into decline. There's always someone out there making money out of it. Stick to basics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Parents are far to busy than to think about what their children have had to eat. The state needs to do more.

    Perhaps the state should care for our children full time and we get to see them for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon?

    Or perhaps the state needs to take a step back?

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I came to the UK decades ago. I gradually fell in love with British food and culture. Multicultural food could be the blame for London Olympic not lifting up the UK economy. If foreigners came to the UK to eat non-British food, then they might as well watch TV at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Perhaps if this shower of a government did its job and insisted that ISS Ltd, based in the Channel Islands, employing more than 24,000 temporary agency workers across the UK, most of them working as supply teachers, paid their tax.

    We might be able to have free school; meals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    137. "What's all this 'Academy' rubbish these days ? They are ALL schools for heaven's sake ! Trying to make them sound so high society"

    As a rule of thumb, if something looks the same as something else but has a different name, it's usually because someone is getting screwed somewhere along the way. In this case, it's the kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    What's all this 'Academy' rubbish these days ? They are ALL schools for heaven's sake ! Trying to make them sound so high society ! We paid a reasonable weekly sum for a good midday meal. Easily paid for by even the poor. And we got a bottle of milk whether it was a Grammar school or a Secondary school. Why did that have to change. Oh, I know, there was no Junk food outlets in those days !

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Is this the moment that parents find out that academies are only about making money and couldn't give a stuff about anything else?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    I think some seem to believe breakfast clubs are just for parents who can't be bothered to give their children breakfast. Currently applying to primary schools for next year, all run a breakfast club (paid for by parents!) which will be a lifeline to me not due to food being provided, (mine will have eaten their porridge/cereal/toast fruit)...but enabling me to go out to work as they start at 8.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I suppose if governers, parents and politicians turned up at schools, unexpectantly at lunchtime and demanded a table to eat what children that day are expected to eat they would be thrown off the premises?

    The disappointment is that most parents have no idea what is served up to their children. Menus should be online on school websites and the companies who provide them.


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