Part of schools having greater independence includes what food to offer as snacks and school lunches. The Guardian yesterday said that academies are selling in their tuckshops, "junk food" such as packets of crisps and cereal bars with high sugar content. This is in breach of official guidelines. The Guardian quoted findings from the School Food Trust.
I do not believe that school heads should spend their time sending data to Whitehall about the salt content of the crisps sold in their tuck shop. Nor do I believe that, overall, the children at independent schools, where none of these rules apply, are worse fed than in the maintained sector. If anything, I suspect that academies will tend to offer better food than LA schools, since the academies have less of their money siphoned off to pay for Town Hall bureaucracy.
Parents might decide that schools making money from selling snacks to pay for extras such as school trips are enterprising. Other parents might disapprove on the grounds that the diet of their children is being damaged. It is for parents to raise this matter with the school with the ultimate sanction of taking their child to another school. That is where the accountability should come.
In any event, the Guardian piece was flawed because it did not make a comparison between food in academies and maintained schools.
The SFT states that academies do “no better” than maintained schools but it does not say that they do worse. In fact it says that academies meet more of the food-based standards at lunchtime than maintained schools.
Page 12 of the School Food Trust report says:
“The nutritionists recorded all of the food and drink provided at lunchtime and mid-morning break. DfE nominated academies met on average 10 of the 14 food-based standards at lunchtime, ranging from as few as six standards in two of these academies to 14 in another two. The average number of food-based standards met in the randomly selected schools was nine out of a possible 14, ranging from four to 14. The standards met most often were for water (13 academies), salt and condiments (12 academies) and group 3 meat products (pies, met in 11 academies). Met least often were the standards for starchy food cooked in oil and deep-fried foods (six academies) and extra bread and confectionery (seven academies)."