Free breakfasts in Blackpool primary schools 'success'

Free breakfast at Devonshire Road School in Blackpool
Image caption The scheme is being examined by researchers at Northumbria University

A pilot scheme offering free breakfasts to primary school children in Blackpool has improved their health and punctuality, say researchers.

All 12,000 pupils are offered milk, fruit juice, cereal and toast in a bid to benefit their performance in school.

Blackpool Council will decide on 17 June whether to extend its £1.3m scheme, which began in January, until the end of March 2014.

Northumbria University researchers have examined the scheme's benefits.

Dr Margaret Anne Defreyter, director of healthy living at Northumbria University, said: "Blackpool's free school breakfast scheme is one of the largest schemes operating within the UK.

"The overall findings of the evaluation of the Blackpool scheme are very positive and based on these findings I strongly recommend that the scheme continues."

Simon Blackburn, the Labour leader of Blackpool Council, said: "It was clear from that first day that the scheme would be a success. Across Blackpool children were coming to school hungry and struggling to concentrate.

"I am proud of the bold decision we made to trial this scheme, a move that no other council has made, and I've even prouder today to see the results of the research."

Neil Hodgkins, head teacher of Devonshire Primary School, said: "Children who had previously had nothing, or very little, to eat first thing are now enjoying a nutritious start to the day and presenting themselves as being livelier, more alert and ready to perform better in class.

"Although it is still early days to be quantifying this in terms of academic results or attainment value, we are seeing other benefits such as improved punctuality and attendance."

The researchers from Northumbria University have recommended that the council should continue to evaluate the "long term educational attainment and short term cognitive performance" of pupils.

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