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'Too many children are going hungry' in St Helens
WORRYING numbers of children are arriving at school so hungry that they can’t learn effectively, says a new report.
The growing problem was identified by a group of councillors that looked into how breakfast clubs can benefit school pupils.
At one primary school, responses from children suggested four out of 10 were coming to morning classes without eating a meal.
Councillor Sheila Seddon, chairman of the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel, told a meeting at St Helens Town Hall: “There are children across the country that are starting their day without anything to eat and in some cases have had nothing to eat from the previous evening.
“These children are arriving at school so hungry they can’t learn effectively. Although this is a limited problem it is serious and it’s happening across the borough of St Helens.”
National reports suggest breakfast clubs mean children are spending 10 hours a day in schools as parents use them and after-school activities as “cheap childcare”.
But the biggest concern for councillors is that too many local youngsters are simply going hungry.
Their report said hardship meant almost 5,000 people have now accessed the St Helens Foodbank.
The council committee is urging governors at all St Helens schools to see if they meet criteria to secure extra funding to serve free breakfasts.
It is recommending schools identify “vulnerable pupils and ensure they are fed”.
At schools where breakfast clubs have been successfully run there has been evidence of improved attendance, punctuality, behaviour and better social skills among pupils.
The investigation studied schools that are making the most of breakfast clubs and providing healthy food.
Councillors explored how they can be maintained and how more schools can offer the early morning meals.
At Broad Oak Primary in Parr a quick ‘hands-up’ survey found that 40 per cent had not eaten breakfast that day.
Broad Oak, which has almost 400 pupils, has been running their early bird breakfast club for three years and currently caters for 43 children.
It offers free breakfast but councillors accepted that it would not work in schools in more affluent areas which did not receive as much funding to help poorer pupils.
The group also visited Rainhill High, Haydock High and Cowley. Between 20 and 30 pupils receive breakfasts at Rainhill and up to 30 at Haydock High. At Cowley, which has 1,200 pupils, 200 are fed every day.
The panel said that most schools provide good breakfast services for children but it is not a case of one size “fits all” as some provide a free service while others charge.