Jamie Oliver warns Michael Gove on academy school meals

TV chef Jamie Oliver Jamie Oliver has campaigned for healthier school meals

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TV chef Jamie Oliver has said Education Secretary Michael Gove is endangering pupils' nutrition by not controlling what food academy schools provide.

He said he was "totally mystified" that academies were allowed to determine what food should be on offer, while state schools follow strict rules.

"The public health of five million children should not be left to luck or chance," he told the Observer.

The government says it trusts schools to act in their pupils' best interests.

A campaign by the chef led to tough new legal standards on school meals in England.

Oliver told the newspaper: "This mantra that we are not going to tell (academy) schools what to do just isn't good enough in the midst of the biggest obesity epidemic ever."

'Playing with fire'

Referring to Mr Gove, who enabled more schools in England to become academies through the Academies Bill in 2010, Oliver said: "I have got nothing against him personally. But the health of millions of children could be affected by this one man.

"When there is a national obesity crisis unfolding around us, I honestly think he is playing with fire."

Academies are semi-independent schools so do not have to abide by regulations introduced in 2008 which set out strict nutritional guidelines for school food.

There are currently 1,776 academies in England and more schools plan on converting to academy-status.

The chef told the newspaper the national standards introduced should apply to all schools and said academy head teachers should be given guidance on the type of food they should be serving.

He also accused academies of making money from vending machines selling sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks.

Under the national rules, which are applied to other state schools, vending machines can only sell healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts and bottles of water.

Reconstituted turkey

Mr Gove wrote to Jamie Oliver about the chef's concerns on school meals at academies last August.

He wrote: "We have no reason to believe that academies will not provide healthy, balanced meals that meet the current nutritional standards.

"As part of the broader freedoms available to academies, I trust the professionals to act in the best interests of their pupils."

He said he had asked the School Food Trust to carry out a survey of food standards in new academies last autumn.

A government spokesman said: "We trust schools to act in the best interests of their pupils. There's been a lasting culture change in attitudes since Jamie's School Dinners.

"Heads know that failing to invest in good, nutritious food is a false economy and parents won't tolerate reconstituted turkey being put back on the menu.

"The tough nutrition standards remain in place in maintained schools and set a clear benchmark for the rest.

"Catering is outstanding in many longest-established academies - we see no reason that they will all not be serving high quality food to pupils that meet the standards."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    My children eat one meal a day at school and 2 meals at home for 39 weeks a year. They eat 3 meals a day at home for the other 13 weeks. I am not saying theat schools should not be encouraged to provide healthy meals. But schools are not responsible for obese children. If my children were obese (they are not) it would be my responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Academies are the worst thing to happen to the education system for many decades, giving 100% power to one man/woman is never a good thing, ask anyone who visits these places, they'll tell you all about their many problems.

    As for healthy food, it is far cheaper to prepare and cook from fresh ingredients than to simply deepfry rubbish or use ready meals and those who disagree need to check prices

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    193.A Fishcold Panda - ''I would love to hear Eric Pickles' view on this.''

    Pickles? They're appetizers aren't they? Very inappropriate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    194.Giles Jones
    We used to have a school tuc shop, selling crisps, sweets, chocolates etc., but still, obese children were in the minority. Like I said, we had school playing fields, had plenty of structured physical education, inter school sports days and inter school football, netball and hockey games on a weekly basis. Exercise goes hand in hand with decent healthy choices. I am offski!

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.


    I remember those meals, Chris. How did they get those big brown lumpy bits into the mashed potato? I have been cooking and mashing potatoes for decades since but have never been able to emulate anything quite so disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Some posts seem to be motivated more by hatred of the government that for the care and welfare of the children.
    Hatred? Utter codswallop!

    If you seriously believe Gove has the interests of all children at heart,then you are deluded.

    Reinstilling discipline is a priority - Gove surely believes in this- what's he doing about it?

  • Comment number 206.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    >198. Some Lingering Fog 

    >If you can find a single politician who isn't idelogically [sic] obsessed
    >then I would be amazed, but then maybe you naively believe that
    >politics isn't about ideology?

    The only ideology that obsesses politicians is their own advancement, income and self-promotion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    A government spokesman said: "We trust schools to act in the best interests of their pupils."

    This is the most unbelievable statement given the constant meddling in all aspects of education especially the curriculum and testing. And it is scandalous that schools will not be held to account for what is a basic building block of human life. Shocking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    168 brookead

    "we turned out just fine"

    You do know that over half of the adult population is unhealthy, don't you? I think that the main worry about academies is that they're very close to the American model of schooling (which is excellent in affluent areas and dire in poor areas). The idea of schools providing poor nutrition due to finance / lack of regulation IS evident in US schooling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Somebody bought me one of Jamie Oliver's recipe books for my wife and me one Christmas. As keen cooks, they thought we would find something of interest in there.
    How we laughed.

  • Comment number 201.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    There should be better education about food, and more vegetarian/vegan options made available to the children. Sooner or later we all have to stop eating meat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    You only have to look at the last 30 years of Tory and Tory-lite policys we've had and ask the question. Will our kids benefit from being fed by the "wealth creators?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    189. Billythefist

    I believe Michael Gove is a clueless idelogically obsessed clown, a fact reflected by some of the most detail free garbage that anyone has ever had the cheek to call"policy"


    If you can find a single politician who isn't idelogically [sic] obsessed then I would be amazed, but then maybe you naively believe that politics isn't about ideology?

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Deduct £1 pound out of their benefits each week for every Pound their child is overweight.

    This money can go into the 'buy the Queen a yacht fund'.

  • Comment number 196.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    190. Alan T
    >>You've probably highlighted the reason why we are becoming a nation of obese wimps.

    My very thought!

    Yes, humiliation used to be such a useful educational tool, done us proud hasn't it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Schools used to sell bad food in the 1980s when I was at school. We weren't all overweight. What changed is kids stopped walking to school as much and aren't always allowed to go places alone. Not to mention multi-channel TV, online videogames that are highly addictive.

    When the world stops creating so many activities for couch potatoes then perhaps things will improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    I would love to hear Eric Pickles' view on this.


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