ONE in nine children in Bolton go to school on an empty tummy, shocking statistics reveal, with teachers saying hunger is having an impact on those young minds. Reasons vary from austerity to changes in eating habits.


TEACHERS are buying cereal for schoolchildren so they can start the day on a full stomach and parents are having to go without food so their children can eat, according to a senior official of the National Association of Headteachers.

Amanda Hulme, who is the national executive member of the North West for the trade union and a Bolton headteacher, said funding cuts were impacting on children.

“Funding is a major issue, with some schools having to decide between running a breakfast club or staff,” said Mrs Hulme, who added that in her role as the national executive member she had heard of parents going without food so their children could eat.

Childwise Research which interviewed primary and secondary school children in Bolton found: - One in nine children go to school without a bite to eat and the effect of this is a loss of education.

-One in ten are eating breakfast outside corner shops and takeaways — such as biscuits, chocolate, crisps and fast food, coffee and soft drinks.

-Twenty-two per cent of youngsters surveyed said they didn’t eat breakfast because they were on a diet

- Twenty-six per cent described themselves as “extremely hungry” by lunchtime due to a lack of breakfast and 18 per cent said they could not concentrate in lessons.

Teachers involved in the survey say: that hungry children miss one or two hours of learning in a school day, hunger impacted on exams and also affected children’s behaviour.

For those children at schools in areas of high deprivation a third of teachers nationally said they noticed a child at their school was hungry and gave them some of their food to eat.

Recent changes in school funding are said to have negatively impacted breakfast club provision.

And teachers who took part in the research said it was important these clubs continue to run as the benefit of them is proven with a third saying that pupils who attend a breakfast club are keen and ready to learn.

Mrs Hulme said: “Charities and organisations do support families with food parcels but there is only so much that can be done. Families on minimum wage face pressures and struggle to make ends meet.

“Breakfast clubs are being cut and staff at schools are known to buy cereal for school when they do their shop so a child can have breakfast.”

Since 2016 Bolton Council has made funding available for schools to bid for to set up club to help alleviate food poverty among their pupils. Although it not clear whether the funding is available this year.

Mrs Hulme added that the impact of social media can also have an impact on children’s body image, which schools were addressing through education — and particularly the message of breakfast being the most important meal of the day.

Peter Cansell, from the National Association Primary Education said: “It’s shocking that in 2019 there are still nearly 800,000 children starting the school day on an empty tummy. This is leading to a shortfall in critical learning time. This research even shows that those children that eat breakfast are happier, probably because they have the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy the school day

“ The benefits of pre-school clubs are proven, they ensure that children go into the classroom with the ability to concentrate.”

Secretary of the Bolton branch of the National Education Union Julia Simpkins said austerity was now affecting measures to address children coming to school hungry.

She said: “Some children arriving at school hungry is not a new phenomenon. That’s why breakfast clubs were set up and now they are being cut.”

For those that are eating in the morning, there has been an increase in older children having their breakfast on the go, grabbing it on the way to school.

And, more children are eating continental breakfast foods with twice as many starting the day with pancakes and croissants.

Sir David Crausby, Bolton North East MP, described as “unbelievable” that children were going to school hungry and not eating a healthy breakfast.

READ MORE :Changing eating habits putting health at risk, says MP

He said a combination of factors — austerity, body image and changing habits when it comes to food — could be to blame.

And described as "unacceptable and unbelievable" that some children were going to school hungry.

“Many schools do a fantastic job, such as breakfast clubs,” he said, who added the benefits of healthy eating needed to be realised more in this day and age for those who eat on the go.

Ms Simpkins echoed the view that breakfasts were being replaced by less healthy options, which could be more expensive.

Kelloggs, which commissioned the survey says it is doubling the number of grants for school breakfast clubs.

Oli Morton, managing director said: “Every child should have the best start to their day and our latest study shows the importance of a good breakfast and that too many children are still going to school without the vital fuel that they need to help them learn."