Bonfire night may have been and gone, but it seems that time for lunch is still causing fireworks for some parents who’ve contacted us recently.
We’ve been emailed by several mums and dads who are worried about their children not getting enough time to eat at school, or that lunchbreak has been moved to later in the day.
One mum was worried about seating arrangements for pupils who have packed lunches at her child’s school. She wrote that children have to keep moving along on their bench each time a pupil finishes and leaves the table – meaning that some of them were moving into the mess left by other pupils, and as a result weren’t eating much at all.
A dad contacted us to say that his 5 year old daughter’s school had banned packed lunches at “very short notice” and re-scheduled the day so that lunch is served at or after 1pm on three days a week, with pupils getting half an hour in which to eat.
This is Time for Lunch Month on our Food in Schools blog, so you can read all about why it’s so important for children to have enough time to eat during the school day, and how the issue of shorter lunchbreaks is far wider than just at these two schools.
If you’re worried your child’s school isn’t giving enough time for lunch, your first question is probably about whether schools have a legal obligation to give pupils a certain amount of time for a break at lunchtime.
That’s not the case – it’s something that individual schools decide for themselves, based on their own circumstances. We always advise that if schools are making changes to their timetable, they think very carefully about how this affects children’s chance to eat, take a break and be part of school activities at lunchtime, and to make sure they talk to pupils and parents about their views on any changes.
What you can do:
• Have a chat with school about whether there’s another way to create more time for lessons or an earlier finish instead of shortening lunchtime, or whether there are systems they could try in the kitchen or dining room that would make things more efficient, so that children get more time to eat. Try a parent governor or to a member of staff on the senior leadership team, as they are responsible for policies on lunchtime at your child’s school. If other parents feel the same way, it might be possible to work with school on alternative solutions. We can help with lots of information and ideas that school can try, so feel free to suggest they get in touch.
• If your child’s school has moved lunchtime ’til later in the day, see how they are using mid-morning break to offer children food. This is a great time for pupils to have a snack to keep them full ’til lunch – we’ve got lots of recipes and ideas that schools can use to offer nutritious snacks like fruit, teacakes and toast.
• Look at how other parents have worked with their schools to make improvements to lunchtimes. If you and other parents at your child’s school want to work together to make changes, get in touch for a chat.
Claire’s one of our senior nutritionists. Email Claire