No let-up in number of school children missing breakfast, teachers tell Kellogg

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

Children fall asleep in class due to hunger, say teachers. Photo: iStock - Antonio_Diaz
Children fall asleep in class due to hunger, say teachers. Photo: iStock - Antonio_Diaz

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Almost all UK teachers feel the number of children coming to school hungry is as high - or higher - than a year ago, according to a poll by Kellogg.

Almost eight out of ten (78%) of the 765 teachers polled by the cereal manufacturer late last year said they see children coming into school hungry at least once a week, while more than a third (36%) said they see children going hungry every day.

And nearly a third of teachers (31%) have brought food into school for children who haven’t eaten in the morning.

Families struggling financially

The number of children arriving at school hungry had increased in the past 12 months according to 20% of teachers surveyed, while 77% thought it was the same as 12 months ago, and just 3% felt the number had fallen.

Why are children missing breakfast?

Teachers who said the number of children arriving at school hungry has increased were asked why they think this is the case:

  • Families struggling financially: 74%
  • Benefit cuts in 2014 mean some families can’t afford breakfast for children: 52%
  • Some families cannot find full-time work and cannot afford breakfast for children: 46%
  • Parents are too busy to give children breakfast: 38%
  • Parents are too lazy to give children breakfast: 34%
  • Having breakfast is increasingly not seen as that important by parents/guardians: 41%
  • Children are increasingly not leaving time to have breakfast at home: 49%
  • Other: 2%
  • Don’t know: 2%

Those who believe the problem is getting worse said contributing factors included families struggling financially, parents being too busy, and parents increasingly not seeing breakfast as important (see box-out).

Teachers told Kellogg the effects of hunger could be seen in class: A third said a child in their class had fallen asleep as a result, 82% said hungry children can’t concentrate, and half claimed hungry children were more disruptive.

Impact on concentration

Missing breakfast has a huge impact on children’s ability to concentrate, learn and behave, which affects their results and long-term outcomes​,” said Jill Rutter, head of policy and research at the UK’s Family and Childcare Trust.

The UK government is currently seeking views on draft proposals on how schools should respond to requests regarding wraparound care such as breakfast clubs. Rutter said this was a “promising development​” but added “there are too many children who still miss out​”.

Supporting breakfast clubs

Kellogg described breakfast clubs as “a great way great way of ensuring children are fed and able to concentrate on learning before embarking on the school day​”. The business said it had helped support more than 2,500 school breakfast clubs in the UK over the past 18 years with funding, training and donations.

The online poll was conducted by YouGov, with fieldwork undertaken between December 21 2015 and January 6 2016. Kellogg’s said the figures have been weighted and are representative of the England and Wales school population by school phase, location and teacher gender.

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