Revitalising Blackpool – the first step

Following my open letter/last blog post last week, I am very pleased to announce our first new policy in response to the problems I outlined.

Subject to approval by the Executive next week, as of January 2013, all children attending Blackpool Primary schools will be offered a free breakfast and free milk at mid-morning break.

This is a bold and ambitious move, but one which is founded entirely in fact, and one which research clearly demonstrates will be of huge benefit to children across the Borough. 

At the moment, some schools run breakfast clubs, which are paid for by parents – usually those in work – as a consequence, the uptake is nowhere near as good as we would like.  We now plan to make this service universally available, and hope that all schools and the majority of parents will take advantage of it.

Despite our superb schools, excellent teachers and committed support and catering staff, and the best efforts of the majority of parents – Blackpool still has a big problem with attendance, attainment and behaviour in the classroom. 

Daily we see and hear of children attending school who quite clearly haven’t had breakfast, and are not therefore able to learn.  Under-nourishment is a real problem here in Blackpool, as one would expect in an area beset by high levels of child poverty. 

A recent survey of schoolchildren suggests that some of our older pupils are more likely to have used alcohol or tobacco in the last week than they are to have eaten breakfast or had 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
 
For years, we have complained about this – but now is the time to actually do something about it. 

All of the evidence points towards the provision of school breakfasts improving attendance, attainment and behaviour – in some cases quite dramatically.  It will ensure children start the day in the right way, it will encourage them to continue the good habit of eating a balanced breakfast for the rest of their lives, it will provide an extra reason to be at school on time, and in 10 years time, we will see dramatically improved educational outcomes as a consequence.
 
Those parents in work who are currently struggling to find £10 or £15 a week to pay for Breakfast Clubs, will now be able to spend that money in other ways – further stimulating the local economy.  The same goes for those low-paid parents who are currently spending £10 a week on cereals, bread and fruit for breakfast. 

Whilst those on benefits usually receive free milk at break times already, I want to see working parents, and people just above the benefit cut-off point, released from the burden of the £10-£15 per term, per child, they are currently charged for milk.
 
Although the obvious beneficiaries of this scheme are those children whose parents are not currently feeding them properly, it will also create jobs, and pour the money that would otherwise be spent on breakfasts directly into the local economy – this is what fairness is all about – a policy which protects the worst off in society, whilst also putting money back in the pockets of those who work hard and do the right thing.
 
Although this is a pilot scheme in primary schools only, I hope and believe that it will soon become part of a joined-up strategy on school meals and nutrition, which we have been working on for some time, which will benefit all of the school-children in Blackpool, schools, teachers, parents, and the wider local economy.
 
By robustly prioritising our budget, and setting out prudent financial plans for the next 3 years, we are able to offer this scheme without placing any additional burden on the Council Tax fund or the Council Tax payer. 

In addition to resources already allocated, we shall also be working with potential sponsors to deliver the scheme as efficiently as possible.
 
Finally, on the subject of my last blog, I will shortly be announcing the appointment of a “Revitalising Blackpool” Task Force of residents, community activists, public, private and third sector representatives, to tackle the issues raised, and the many hundreds of responses received. 

Thank you all for your contributions, the vast majority of which were positive and supportive, and will be invaluable in helping us tackle the problems I outlined.

SHB

10 thoughts on “Revitalising Blackpool – the first step

  1. I am a working Parent who does not use the breakfast club at my sons school due to it costing £6.00 per day this new scheme will have great benifits for myself so that I don’t have to wait until 8:50am to drop my son off and try to get to work for 9:00am. However the idea that this policy is being used to make sure children eat breakfast and incourage parents to bring there children to school on time is scary. This seems a very costly exersise to solve the problem of usless parents!

  2. “Those parents in work who are currently struggling to find £10 or £15 a week to pay for Breakfast Clubs, will now be able to spend that money in other ways – further stimulating the local economy. The same goes for those low-paid parents who are currently spending £10 a week on cereals, bread and fruit for breakfast”

    Cllr Blackburn – I think the breakfasts are a fantastic idea and will be welcomed by so many little an’s who do not get breakfast and nourishment before going to school – however – the comment above is laughable! I do not put my children into breakfast club to allow them to have breakfast!! I put them in because I work full time, and my flexible working hours were taken away from me which meant I could not drop them off at school any longer, and had no choice in the matter, or was told that the job was no longer for me!! I would like to see breakfast (or ‘before school’ club) as it should be called, free for everyone, including working parents!!!!! I also have to put them in after school club and as I am boardline wage do not get any help towards the cost of this. That is £85 per week for me in childcare now – and I only have 2 children with no help from the Government, and that is only term time. And so far I have paid £27000 in nursery fees and that is only for 2 days per week. And I I have never claimed anything in my life. I would greatly appreciate your comments on this….

    • Hi Claire – thanks for that. I have used both breakfast and after-school clubs for similar reasons, and we’re happy to take your suggestions forward into our conversations with schools, because there certainly will continue to be a demand for the childcare element of the breakfast club offer.

      • This is a reply for both Jim and Cllr Blackburn. It is my understanding that this ‘breakfast’ club is not replacing the breakfast clubs that working parents have a need to send their children to, but is a breakfast that will be provided at break time during school time? I am told that the staff at my childs breakfast club are volunteers, in which case it is actually breakfast they I am paying for, whether they have breakfast or not, more than childcare and facilites. If this is the case, is it not possible for the budget to extend to covering the costs of the breakfasts for the children from working families who attend breakfast clubs? I absolutely understand that this is a much needed move towards ensuring that children coming from deprived families, are nourished and are more able to engage in learning whilst at school. It would just be nice sometimes for working parents and families who are boarderline, to be recognised and to also benefit from a local government initiative such as this.

  3. Its a complete pleasure, this is my community, its where i grew up and its what matters most to me. Collectively and together we can make a real difference. You have my word that my committment, like yours, is to the community and to people that matter. Every little one and young person deserves our support. You can count on me

  4. Hello Simon, all my respect to your activities in primary schools (f.e. breakfast and lunch for all). I wish we had politicians like you and your fellows. Go on :-) best regards
    Gerhard Renner, Head of Florenbergschule

  5. Hi, Finally The right action agaisnt child poverty is taking place were the child will receive the actual benefit. I am overjoyed i cant wait to get back to work at the school i work at in blackpool,my sleeves will be firmly rolled up.

  6. What a brilliant example you’re setting to other local authorities, Mr Blackburn. I grew up on the Fylde Coast and it’s good to see Blackpool leading the way. The problems are enormous but you have the vision and the guts to tackle them

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