Heads demand right to give cake to boarders

11th June 2010 at 01:00
Appeal to Gove to make return to calorie-laden treats his `number one priority'

State boarding headteachers have made an impassioned plea to the new Government: to let their pupils eat cake.

They are calling on Education Secretary Michael Gove to make it his "number one priority" to reinstate their right to serve delicious boarding school staples such as Chelsea buns and lemon shortbreads.

The eating of sweet bakery snacks between the hours of 8am and 6pm was banned in state schools by the strict 2007 school food regulations.

So any headteacher who does "risk it for a biscuit" and give children an iced finger before dusk could, in theory, end up in court for flouting the healthy-eating rules.

In day schools, the rules are less of a problem, as many children go home at 3.20pm. But boarding schools find their traditional mid-afternoon snacks and even teatimes are marred by healthy-eating legislation.

Headteachers say the rules are inappropriate for the country's 35 state boarding schools, and children should be allowed access to "homely food" after school.

Melvyn Roffe, head of Wymondham College in Norfolk, and vice-chair of the Boarding Schools' Association, said the new Education Secretary should make it his "number one priority" to address the problem, which he claims was ignored by the previous government.

He said: "We like to serve the children a biscuit at 11am, and we do that because some of the children will have a games activity before lunch and it's in their interest to have something."

He added: "We also serve dinner between 5.30pm and 6.30pm in two different sittings and half of the time the food is bound by the rules and half of it isn't. The rules were written without any sense that boarding might be different.

"We asked the department what would happen if we chose to break the rules and they said they could take us to court. If we failed to comply I could end up in prison for contempt."

He said the "absurd" oversight had created a running joke in boarding school circles, but it was part of wider problems of over-regulation in schools. The rules do not apply in independent boarding schools.

Paul Spencer Ellis, headteacher of Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate, Surrey, added: "The whole logic is that the regulations are for a day school where the parents aren't going to feed them properly at home, but in a boarding school we do all their meals.

"But as it stands, pupils come into the boarding house after school and they want to grab some carbs and it's illegal. It's illegal for me to give them a sticky bun."

Mr Spencer Ellis also bemoaned a prohibition on serving Coco Pops at breakfast and other rules restricting the consumption of sausages, and even low-fat spread on potatoes.

In the school's most recent Ofsted social care inspection, inspectors remarked that pupils were unhappy with "healthy" restrictions on their breakfasts and it was "difficult to see how the new guidelines are appropriate to boarding schools".

Hilary Moriarty, national director of the Boarding Schools' Association, said: "The regulations were steamrollered in against the needs of boarding schools where boarders expect homely food, because school, for them, is home."

A School Food Trust spokesman said: "The standards are an important part of the continuing work to transform school food and give young people a more consistent message about healthy choices."

Naughty . but nice

  • Coco Pops count as "confectionery" because they are covered in chocolate so cannot be served after 8am.
  • Deep-fried food is only allowed twice a week.
  • Fish must be served twice a week, and this must include an oily variety at least once in every three weeks.
  • Sausages, pasties, pies and burgers can only be served once every two weeks. Cakes and
  • Biscuits can be served with school lunch, but not as snacks.
  • No salt can be added after cooking; other condiments should be served in sachets with a maximum weight of 10g.
    • Original paper headline: Tuck in! Heads demand right to give boarders a bit of what they fancy

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