‘More pupils are sitting exams on empty stomachs’

·2-min read
It is likely that 2022 will see even more children sitting school exams hungry (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)
It is likely that 2022 will see even more children sitting school exams hungry (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

Increasing numbers of teenagers are likely to be taking their exams while hungry this summer because of the rising cost of living, campaigners have warned .

Emily Wilkie, head of fundraising at charity Magic Breakfast, said in normal times about 2.7 million disadvantaged children miss out on breakfast each school day.

She added: “Rising costs in energy, fuel and food are putting increasing pressure on family budgets.

“It is likely that 2022 will see even more children sitting school exams hungry and unable to fulfil their potential at a key life moment.”

Magic Breakfast provides healthy meals to children in around 1,000 schools who arrive too hungry to learn.

It has launched a fresh call for help to give poorer teenagers free breakfasts during exam season and is doubling any donations made in that time.

Research by the University of Leeds found that children who rarely ate breakfast achieved nearly two grades lower than those who normally ate a morning meal.

A spokesman for Magic Breakfast said: “Disadvantaged pupils are having their education put at risk due to hunger, after having already been disproportionally affected by learning loss during the pandemic and falling even further behind their peers.”

The charity aims to raise £280,000 — enough money for a million breakfasts for disadvantaged students during their exams. It is partnering with Hawksmoor and D&D London, whose restaurants include Quaglino’s and Coq d’Argent, for the campaign.

It comes after a group of 11 teaching unions wrote to the Chancellor and Education Secretary calling for free school meals to be provided to all children from families receiving Universal Credit in England.

Former Tory MP and Education Secretary Justine Greening backs the expansion of the scheme, as does former Labour MP Alan Johnson.

Former children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said she wants free school meals to be available to all primary school-aged children because this would take away “stigma”. In England, primary school children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 receive free meals.

A Government spokesman said: “Wider welfare support is available through the household support fund, which helps vulnerable families in need with essentials, such as food and utility bills.”

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