Double portions for hungry Scots

4th March 2005 at 00:00
Scotland's most deprived authority is spending twice as much on school meals per pupil as the celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is trying to deliver for schools in England, writes Elizabeth Buie.

While a straw poll by The TES Scotland revealed wide variations, it showed that Glasgow spends between 75p and pound;1 per pupil in primary and secondary schools compared to the 37p per pupil in the Greenwich secondary where Oliver filmed his Channel 4 School Dinners series.

Since the first programmes have been transmitted, the chef's campaign for "half a quid a kid" has borne fruit, with Greenwich Council agreeing to allow kitchen staff the extra time they need for food preparation and raising spending to 50p a pupil.

Scottish comparisons include:

* East Renfrewshire - 43p per head (primary and secondary, raised to 45p from April); 97p for a kosher meal (the cost is inflated because the vacuum-packed meat comes from Manchester with training provided for staff in how to handle it).

* East Ayrshire - 64p per head (primary); 72p per head (secondary).

Spending has gone up under the Scottish Executive's Hungry for Success initiative. This allocation is for a two-course meal, while Oliver's example in Greenwich features a single main course for 37p. The figures for a one-course meal in East Ayrshire would be 49p per head (primary) and 55p per head (secondary).

* Glasgow - 75p-pound;1 per head (primary and secondary). The figure varies because pupils can eat as many healthy options as they like from the pick 'n' mix counter.

Monitoring of the Hungry for Success programme by Scottish education inspectors suggests that some primary schools are exceeding expectations in delivering the healthy eating message.

Claire Alison, HMIE's nutritional assessor, who is monitoring the progress of Hungry for Success in the primary sector, has been impressed by the number of schools offering locally sourced food and organic produce. There are even class trips to supermarkets to teach children how to make healthy choices.

Ms Alison will be one of the panel members discussing school meals at a Channel 4 debate next Monday, and is expected to endorse Oliver's finding that Scottish schools are an example to England.

Frances Curran, Scottish Socialist Party MSP for the West of Scotland, said the jury was still out on whether Hungry for Success was delivering its aims.

Ms Curran, whose party is continuing to campaign for universal free school meals, pointed to research by Carlo Morelli and Paul Seaman at Dundee University which concluded: "The view that universality acts to benefit the 'middle' classes appears grossly overstated."

Ms Curran said: "Labour MSPs who voted against our free school meals Bill last time argued there was no guarantee that young people will eat healthy meals. I believe that Jamie Oliver will prove them wrong in that as well."

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