More than one in seven lower income parents with children at primary school in Wales can’t get a breakfast club place, despite the Welsh Government’s aim to ensure all primary school kids that need a free breakfast can have one, a survey of parents by Child Poverty Action Group and Parentkind finds. Just over a third (34%) of families who can’t get a place said having one would help with living costs.
As the cost of living crisis deepens, Child Poverty Action Group and Parentkind are pressing the Welsh Government to work with schools to ensure free breakfast places are a reality for every child that needs one.
Across all income levels, one in ten primary school parents would like a breakfast place but don’t have one, the survey of almost 7,000 parents found. Parents said either their school didn’t have breakfast provision or there wasn’t a space for their child, but it was unclear from the findings to what extent any charges for breakfast club were prohibitive. Of the two in five primary school parents who do have a breakfast place, a large majority (91%) across all income levels said it helped them to get to work on time.
Child Poverty Action Group’s Wales Development Manager Ellie Harwood said:
For families struggling to stay afloat as living costs surge, a free breakfast can be a lifeline. But kids can’t eat air and our research shows far too many are missing out, as the Welsh Government’s breakfast club offer isn’t being consistently delivered on the ground. It’s time to make good on the promise and make free breakfast a reality for every primary school child.
We hope the Government will also listen to the many parents in our survey who want more before and after-school activities. Done well, the activities are enriching for children and pivotal for parents juggling kids, jobs and paying the bills.
Parentkind’s Chief Executive John Jolly said:
The commitment from the Welsh Government to provide a free breakfast space to all children was incredibly welcome; after all, the benefits of a healthy breakfast are well documented.
However, this poll shows that too many welsh families are missing out. If the knock-on benefits are to be realised, of parents getting to work on time and managing to balance already stretched household budgets, more needs to be done to improve provision. As things stand, this policy is of little use to the 1 in 7 lower income households whose children are at risk of going hungry each morning.
The survey also found strong support for more optional before and after-school activities for children. Four in five parents said they would welcome a range of children’s activities outside of core school hours, with physical activity and sport the most popular option (64%).
Among primary school parents, more than 2 in 5 said after-school activities would help them to work as they would not need additional childcare in those hours and preferences were for extra art and drama activities (53%) and music activities (52%). Secondary parents favoured extra opportunities for academic learning (39%) and homework clubs (41%).
Parents also want activities to support children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, with over 2 in 5 (45%) of all parents and nearly half (49%) of families on benefits requesting these.