Parents want schools to give breakfast

HARD-PRESSED PARENTS want schools to provide their children with dinner and breakfast as well as lunch, according to a poll published today.

The survey commissioned by the Local Authority Caterers' Association marks the start of School Meals Week and shows that some parents expect to rely completely on schools for everything from feeding their children to teaching them discipline. A teachers' union leader accused them of abdicating their responsibility for bringing up their children.

Nearly four in ten parents would like the option of breakfast at school and one in five would like children to remain there for an evening meal. A small number of schools already provide breakfast.

Children are even more enthusiastic than their parents about the idea of breakfast at school - 44 per cent are in favour - and more than one in three would like an evening meal. The survey suggests that the increase in the number of parents working full-time and struggling to prepare meals may explain the figures.

Gallup surveyed 1,200 children aged 8 to 16 and 1,000 parents throughout Britain.

A quarter of parents say they already rely on schools to provide their children with a balanced diet. Even more expect the school to take sole responsibility for teaching children about discipline and social skills.

Despite the widespread belief that the traditional family meal is rare, nearly two-thirds of parents say they eat an evening meal at home at the table with their children with only one-fifth saying that they allow children to eat a meal off a tray on their laps. Yet nearly two-thirds of children say they are more likely to eat with cutlery in school than outside it.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The more schools take over parents' role, the more they will leave it to us. It is a disastrous road to go down and an abdication of responsibility by parents. Teachers need a proper partnership with parents."

Two-fifths of children now eat school meals every day compared with more than three-quarters when their parents were at school.