Let lunchtime be a school break

19th December 2008 at 00:00

Glasgow City Council's decision to insist that S1 pupils remain in school over lunchtime assumes that the only reason young people make the choice to leave in the middle of the day is to get food.

Research published by Consumer Focus Scotland earlier this year showed that food was rarely a primary driver in the decision to stay in school or not. Motivating factors for young people to go out at lunchtime turned out to be a mix of wanting to enjoy and assert their freedom, to spend social time with friends away from school and to get some exercise.

Young people also reported that the experience of eating in school wasn't always positive. So we applaud the improvements being made to school catering which, over time, will attract more young people to choose to stay at school to eat. But if you remove the choice so young people feel they are being compelled to eat school meals, all the good work could be undone rapidly.

Rather than locking children in, we should be looking at ways of making it easier for them to make healthy choices.

Schools are not the only players here. We need a strategy to provide neighbourhood solutions for schools that link in with existing initiatives on healthy living and the Neighbourhood Shops project, so young people can get the healthy food outside school that we know many of them want.

Mary Lawton, senior policy advocate, Consumer Focus Scotland, Glasgow.

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