• A new study by Pro Bono Economics, undertaken in partnership with children’s charity Magic Breakfast and Heinz has found that providing disadvantaged pupils completing Key Stage 1 with just one year’s supply of school breakfast provision, could generate long-term economic benefits in excess of £9,000 per child
  • With an estimated 298,000 pupils aged between 6 and 7 completing Key Stage 1 at  schools with high levels of disadvantage, this figure amounts to a staggering £2.7bn in benefits across England
  • The findings come as Magic Breakfast and Heinz call on the Government to increase its school breakfast provision funding in the spring Budget
  • The Government’s current funding for school breakfasts runs out in July 2021 and will leave thousands of children without access to vital food support
  • Members of the public can help by contacting their local MP and asking them to support Magic Breakfast’s campaign, #BreakfastInTheBudget

A new report released today reveals that just one year’s worth of school breakfast provision for disadvantaged pupils completing Key Stage 1 could generate long-term economic benefits in excess of £9,000 per child.

With an estimated 298,000 pupils aged between 6 and 7 completing Key Stage 1 at schools with high levels of disadvantage, this figure amounts to a staggering £2.7bn in benefits across England.

The study, undertaken by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with children’s charity Magic Breakfast and Heinz, comes as the Government’s current school breakfast funding is scheduled to end in July 2021. Parliament was due to debate a School Breakfast Bill, supported by over 70 MPs, which would have extended and scaled up funding, but this Bill was not supported by the Government and has now been postponed indefinitely due to a reduced parliamentary calendar during lockdown. 

Given the rapidly rising levels of child hunger and the widening educational attainment gap, Magic Breakfast and Heinz are calling for the Government to implement the content of the School Breakfast Bill before current school breakfast funding ends. They are calling on the Government to make a commitment in the Spring Budget to provide school breakfast funding to 8,700 schools in disadvantaged areas of England. They are also calling for this support to be long term and sustainable.

The report provides an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the Magic Breakfast model of free, universal, school breakfast provision. Existing evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies provides evidence that school breakfast provision, targeted at schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged children, improves children’s educational attainment. This report looks at the long-term economic benefits of that improved attainment, which is largely a result of improvements in life-time earnings from employment. 

Key findings from the report include:

  • The cost of school breakfast provision is around £180 per pupil per year. Even after subtracting these costs, breakfast provision for one year for those pupils completing Key Stage 1 (children aged 6 or 7) has potential to generate net long-term benefits in excess of £9,000 per child
  • Approximately £4,000 of these benefits will go to the Government through increased tax revenue and reduced public services costs
  • There are an estimated 298,000 pupils completing Key Stage 1 at schools with high levels of disadvantage in England. If all of these pupils received the Magic Breakfast model of school breakfast provision it would generate total long-term economic benefits of around £2.7bn
  • More than 90 per cent of these benefits are likely to be in the form of improved life-time earnings for the beneficiaries, with the remainder due to reduced costs for Special Educational Needs, truancy and exclusions
  • This means that every £1 spent on the programme could generate more than £50 in benefits, making it a highly cost-effective intervention 

Alysa Remtulla, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Magic Breakfast said:

“We know from the schools we support that a school breakfast ensures a child starts the day feeling settled, valued and ready to learn. As this report shows, that meal can have a lifelong impact on a child, enabling them to reach their full potential and opening up a world of opportunities.

“As the UK looks towards Covid-19 recovery, this report is proof that school breakfasts could tackle the widening educational attainment gap and contribute to repairing the economy. This is a smart and cost effective investment for the Government.

“With the launch of our new campaign, #BreakfastInTheBudget, Magic Breakfast is calling on the Government to urgently commit to new, scaled up, sustainable funding for school breakfasts. We urge members of the public to support this campaign by writing to their local MP.”

Georgiana de Noronha, President of Northern Europe at Heinz said:

“This report shows just how vital school breakfast provision can be, not only in the short-term by tackling child hunger and improving energy levels and concentration, but also in the long-term, generating greater benefits for the wider economy.

“This is a critical moment in the fight against child hunger in the UK and for the government to remove funding for breakfast clubs would be a huge step backwards, so we are urging the public to join us in supporting Magic Breakfast’s campaign to get #BreakfastInTheBudget and ensure that no child is too hungry to learn.

“In 2019 we announced our five-year partnership with Magic Breakfast, providing their partner schools with Heinz No Added Sugar Beanz, which are naturally high in protein and fibre, and we remain committed to driving awareness of the issue of child hunger and doing what we can to help solve child food poverty in the UK.”

Elizabeth Newton, Head of Elfrida Primary School in London, said:

“We have been fortunate to benefit from Magic Breakfast provision for our pupils since January 2019. Before, children could arrive at school in the morning feeling hungry which could make them distracted. We introduced a playground service of hot bagels, which were made available to any child who wanted one.

“The impact that this simple provision has made to our school is immeasurable. Our attendance and timekeeping rates have improved and the behaviour for learning has become outstanding across the school as any child who may previously have been unsettled due to hunger, is now able to focus on their learning.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more of our families have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their hours reduced, so the food which Magic Breakfast has provided to our families has been a real lifeline for some.

“If we did not receive Magic Breakfast provision, I’d be very concerned that some of our children would once again struggle to concentrate, as we do not have the budget to fund this essential provision.”

Jon Franklin, Chief Economist at PBE added:

“With a question mark currently hovering over the future of government school breakfast provision, there’s a strong economic imperative for these programmes to continue and expand – with billions of pounds a year potentially in play. School breakfast provision may be one of the most cost-effective ways the government can ensure greater earning potential for pupils in schools with high levels of disadvantaged children.

“For the price of a few bagels, beans and teacher time - breakfast provision costs just £180 per pupil to run each year – we estimate school breakfasts can generate £9,200 of long-term benefits per child for the economy, a number the Chancellor can’t ignore.”

Download the report