Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Breakfast club on breakfast clubs

Right, I'm just adjusting my soap box. I'm afraid it's time for a short rant.

I've spent most of this week this week being cross. I'm cross that the governement are seemingly incapable of thinking thtrough a policy before introducing it, I'm cross that the Scottish Government are allowing Donald Trump to destroy an area of Special Scientific Interest to build a golf course, I'm cross that the BBC and the government are busy wringing their hands about a TV programme about the cancellation of a TV programme rather than actually focussing on the substance of the TV programme itself. But mostly I'm cross about the way this government is picking on the vulnerable in our society. The elderly, the disabled, single parent families, children. Really very cross indeed.

I've been reading this article in The Observer about the importance of school breakfast clubs to children from low income families in the UK.

It's depressing reading isn't it? Goodness, I know that in absolute terms, we as a nation are so much better off than many other places, but this article really makes me angry. This is the 8th biggest economy in the world and we can't send our children to school with a decent meal in their tums. Many of the brilliant breakfast clubs that endeavour to do just that, and by so doing to educate children about what constitutes a healthy breakfast, are being forced to close down because of budget cuts, at the same time as demand for their services is increasing. And yes, I know that we need to pay off the defecit (the mantra has been repeated so many times that it *must* be true, right?), but why does it have to be low income families, and children in particular that are once again bearing the brunt of these cuts? I could cry.

The subject of school lunches has rightly been given prominence in discussions about pupil nutrition. I take my hat off to Jamie Oliver for the work that he's done in this area and have no time whatsoever for the Jamie haters. If it means even one school ups its game then his work's been worthwhile, as far as I'm concerned, especially when I look at our council's school lunch menu, which periodically fills me with despair when I gaze upon it. What insane mind on the council decided that reheated frozen pizza with potato smiles constitutes a 'healthy choice'? But that's a whole other blog.

Meanwhile, relatively little attention has been paid to the importance of breakfast to educational outcomes. It stands to reason that a hungry child is not going to perform as well as a child whose brain and body has been properly nourished before they enter the classroom. But hey, they're not going to vote Tory, and neither are their parents, so to hell with them, eh Mr Gove? Of course, there is also an argument that it is the parent's role to provide a decent breakfast for their child, and to an extent I agree. However, we don't live in an ideal world, and while of course we should be tackling the reasons why children aren't being properly fed at home, whether it be poverty, lack of knowledge about proper nutrition, or neglect, is it fair to penalise these children for the sins or simple misfortunes of their parents in the meantime? I don't think so.

So what can we do? Well, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts.

1. Support charities like Magic Breakfast, who are running breakfast clubs around the country.
2. Write to your MP.
3. Publicise the issue on your blogs and other social media.
4. At the risk of going all Big Society on your ass,  if you have any spare time, volunteer for your local breakfast club (I confess here that I hardly have enough time to get my own children out of the house in time for school, let alone volunteer at a breakfast club)
5. Thank your lucky stars if you're fortunate enough not to need their services.

We send our children to school to equip them for life. The least society can do is equip them to take best advantage of the opportunities education affords them.

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