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Alexander Residence: Breakfast Clubs are Lifesavers

Friday, 14 October 2011

Breakfast Clubs are Lifesavers

Breakfast clubs are a lifesaver. When I was a teacher I saw the improvements in concentration, health and well being, on children who might not have had breakfast without the club.  But when I visited Sycamore Primary breakfast club this week, on behalf of Kelloggs and Netmums, I realised the many other ways in which they make a difference.

The teacher who showed me in was on her way to the breakfast club to grab tea and toast before starting work.  Staff make use of the club to save time, but also to catch up with parents and children in a more relaxed setting.  I quickly got chatting to a group of children who - in between bites of their 70p bacon butties - told me there was something different to try every day: beans on toast, omlettes, cereal, toast.

Andi Ginns-Farrow, the learning support mentor who runs the club explained some of the benefits of breakfast club.  The club attracts children for different reasons, because their parents work, because they don't get much opportunity to eat socially, or because they won't or don't eat breakfast at home.  A surprising number of children don't eat breakfast.  Research suggest that 1 in 5 of 5-6 year olds prepare their own breakfast and that 44% of primary school children skip breakfast because they have no time in the morning.

All the children get a chance to play games, chat to Andi and eat a varied and nutritious breakfast round a table.
After bacon butties, two of the attendees enjoy a game of Jenga with Andi
One mum told me she started bringing her daughter to the club when she refused to eat breakfast.  Eating together socially with other children has made a big difference, and her daughter now eats breakfast nearly every day.

Over a 35p cup of coffee I chatted to Simone, a mum who uses the club so that she can get to work for 9am.  She had previously used private before school care, but with two children the cost of what effectively comes down to 30 minutes of childcare was too high.  For under £2 they now have convenient childcare, and a good breakfast. On maternity leave whilst expecting her third child, Simone was enjoying having someone else cook her breakfast and a chance to sit and chat to her children and their friends.

I was expecting to see lots of parents dropping kids off and rushing to work, but many parents use the club themselves.  For parents who don't work, breakfast club is a place to socialise with other parents.  The headteacher, Paul Worley explained that encouraging parents to contribute to the school is always difficult, but the breakfast club helped to break down barriers between staff and parents.  The club was also somewhere for parents and come and voice concerns, or to get support from other parents and the school.

Originally the club was free. Now, due to funding cuts, the school makes a small charge to cover food costs, but funds staffing itself.  I asked the headteacher if that was sustainable.  Although currently it is, he explained it is a halfway house between a social intervention and a hardship intervention.  For schools who have more children in poverty I imagine it must be tough.  Andi felt the funding cuts had made a difference; despite keeping costs low, there would always be children whose parents just couldn't afford it every day.

Kelloggs have stepped up to the challenge of filling the breakfast club funding gap, but they need help. For every click, like or tweet via the Kellogg's Give a Child a Breakfast site you see the breakfast counter go up by one breakfast.

Kellogg’s Cornflakes will also make a 3p donation for every pack sold to the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club Trust with the target of raising a minimum of £300,000 – which means one million breakfasts by the end of 2012.

Thanks to the staff and children of Sycamore Primary for my visit.

I am a member of the Netmums Parent Bloggers Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team from our database to review products and brands on their behalf. I am paid an expenses fee to cover my time but Netmums have no editorial control whatsoever about what I blog about. Being a member of the Netmums Blogging Network means that I can 'opt in' to try out products and brands and get my expenses covered but that I retain full editorial integrity.

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At 17 October 2011 at 10:02 , Blogger Kate said...

What a great post - and well done you for getting out there and interviewing the staff, parents and kids. Brilliant.

At 17 October 2011 at 16:42 , Anonymous Claire said...

It's really fascinating how the clubs are used in a different way to what was anticipated, but in a way which makes them more important. I went to a really interesting conference a couple of weeks ago. The school food trust was there alongside loads of other people, and they said breakfast clubs great for kids who don't have breakfast, but not so good for kids who have had breakfast - they get all drowsy! Makes sense I suppose.

At 17 October 2011 at 21:37 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Cheers Kate, it gave me great insight.
Claire - I think every club is so unique, Amazing that sone kids are getting two breakfasts!!

At 18 October 2011 at 13:43 , Blogger Jen Stanbrook said...

Great post. I'm heading over to Kellogs now to 'click' away!

At 19 October 2011 at 10:10 , Anonymous Honest Mum said...

Just clicked. A fabulous scheme. Thanks again for sharing.


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