Frosty at the idea of a free breakfast

28th May 2004 at 01:00
The benefits of having a good breakfast are obvious. It is also obvious that a healthy diet and lifestyle are just as beneficial. Periods of exercise and rest will benefit all children.

Schools try to educate youngsters about the benefits of eating properly and getting some exercise. We can raise awareness and stress the importance of these issues. But now the Welsh Assembly government wants to introduce free school breakfasts for all primary pupils - starting with those in deprived areas.

Who is going to be responsible? Will schools become the soup kitchens for society? As David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said earlier this month at its conference in Cardiff, teachers are not surrogate parents.

Schools in my local education authority are having to make teachers redundant while at the same time considering providing free breakfasts.

Support staff, who are supposed to be making the workforce agreement possible, are being laid off. Some schools have large deficits.

Why on earth are we funding a social-care issue when school budgets are being slashed? Who is going to take charge of these breakfast clubs? Who is going to be responsible for children from, say, 7.30am? Who will manage the transport arrangements and deal with issues of behaviour management, care, and health and safety? Who is going to pay for the service? Where is the club to be held?

Who is going to pay for the cleaning up before school starts? Few primary schools have the luxury of separate dining rooms. Where will the children go and what will they do during the time that the school is being cleaned, ready for the start of the day?

Breakfast clubs would clearly benefit children. But, with limited resources available, my priorities are different. I would expect families to provide breakfast - leaving schools and teachers to educate.

In my school we provide a healthy-eating tuck shop facility. Chilled water is available at all times, Milk, fruit and cereal bars are available during break times. And we have a school council committee which runs this non-profit-making facility for us.

My working day is already more than full. I should be planning, in line with the workforce agreement, a reduction in my workload and a better work-life balance for all my staff. Was this dog's dinner of a scheme thought up on the back of a cereal box?

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school, Bridgend. He writes here in a personal capacity.

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