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No snap, crackle and pop

IMAGES of children munching their favourite cereal and tucking into slices of buttery toast and jam are regularly pumped out when ministers promote the rapid expansion of breakfast clubs in schools, particularly primaries.

The truth lies somewhere else. They are more likely to be used for childcare dumping grounds in the morning and not for healthy, nutritious pre-class meals. Researchers even question how many children actually eat breakfast.

Astonishingly, the consultants say: "Seventy-seven per cent of out-of-school care providers, 50 per cent of primary-based and 52 per cent of secondary-based providers had children attending who had already eaten breakfast."

A mapping exercise carried out by consultants for the Scottish Executive and the Health Education Board for Scotland found generally fewer than 10 children in a primary school club. In secondaries, the average was 11-20 children and they used the clubs principally for recreation.

The food served is often healthy but white bread and rolls remain more popular than wholemeal options. Most clubs are involved in healthy eating initiatives, promote personal hygiene and encourage members to brush their teeth.

Seventy per cent of clubs have difficulty setting up and find it difficult to secure long-term funding and premises. They cannot find staff and cannot forecast demand for their service.

"Breakfast Service Provision for School-aged Children: A Mapping Exercise" is available on the Scottish Executive website.

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