Ban pupils from leaving school at lunch, says parents

Parents want teachers to ban their children leaving school premises at lunchtime to stop them buying unhealthy snacks or takeaways, according to research published today.

A poll of 12,000 parents conducted by Laca, which represents school catering managers, found 73 per cent of parents were in favour of secondary school students, up to the age of 16, being barred from leaving the premises at lunchtime in case they bought junk food. A third (35 per cent) wanted the ban extended to sixth-formers.

Anne Bull, Laca's chairwoman, said the findings should be "a highly persuasive factor for headteachers to make changes to school policy".

She said: "Whilst we cannot prevent students buying from takeaways and shops on the way to or after school, we should encourage young people to use the school food services more during the time they are at school."

The poll, launched to mark the start of National School Meals Week, also showed that an overwhelming 92.3 per cent of parents were in favour of all schools having to abide by a minimum set of nutritional standards.

That finding was welcomed by Jamie Oliver, the TV chef who has been a vociferous critic of Education Secretary Michael Gove's plan to exempt academies and free schools. The guidelines were introduced in primary schools in 2008 and secondaries in 2009 after Oliver led a campaign. "It's blatantly clear from the outcome of [this] survey – which is a direct representation of what busy parents in this day and age actually think – what a humungous impact health has on our lives," the chef said.

"I just hope they show the results to Mr Gove and that he does something positive with the data."

Ms Bull added that parents were "sending out a clear message about their future expectations for school food provision".

Mr Gove has set up a review of school meals to be carried out by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, founders of the Leon restaurant chain, which will report next year.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Some maintained schools and academies have said that they find the food standards too bureaucratic, difficult to administer and rigid. Despite not having to stick to them, many academies are actually exceeding the standards and are offering their pupils very high quality, nutritional food."