CHILD POVERTY ACTION GROUP (CPAG) and Magic Breakfast are urging the UK Government to fund universal before-and after-school activities to help families cope with surging costs and enable children to thrive. 

New analysis by CPAG and Magic Breakfast finds free wraparound provision could help some of the worst-off families significantly boost their incomes as the cost of living crisis bites. Previous research has shown wraparound provision boosts pupils’ learning outcomes and life chances.

The analysis shows that with free provision in place, a low-income lone parent moving from part-time to full-time work would be £1200 per year better off through the removal of childcare costs alone.  But without free provision, they lose over half the extra income gained from working more to childcare costs.

At a time when many parents are skipping meals and struggling with bills, and with school budgets already overstretched, the charities say central investment in before and after-school clubs that are available to all children is needed – so families have more opportunities to work if they can, and so that children can flourish.

CPAG previously estimated it would cost the Government £2.6 billion a year to roll this out in all primary schools in England and an additional £525 million for secondary schools. As an urgent first step, an injection of £75 million would allow breakfast provision to reach 75 per cent of schools with high levels of disadvantage.  This should be followed by a long-term funding plan to guarantee free breakfast provision to all pupils who need it.

Currently, before and after school provision is inconsistent and unaffordable for many. Nearly one in five schools in England has no breakfast provision and for those that do, over half report there are barriers to pupils accessing clubs or a breakfast offer – including lack of school funds and/or staff.

CPAG and Magic Breakfast’s new analysis finds that without access to free out-of-school provision, a lone parent of two primary school children who earns the minimum wage, receives universal credit and wants to double her weekly working hours from 15 to 30, would lose over half the extra net income she would gain from working the extra hours to childcare costs.  But with free, wraparound provision, at 30 hours’ work she would gain £1,200 more per year than if she had to pay for childcare to cover the 15 extra hours.

The benefits for children of extra-curricular provision are well documented. A 2017 Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) evaluation found that offering schools support to establish a free, universal breakfast provision boosts attainment at Key Stage 1 by around two months’ additional progress.

Kate Anstey, Head of Child Poverty Action Group’s Cost of the School Day programme, said: “The Government could make a big difference to children and to struggling families if it stepped in with increased central funding for before and after-school provision. And with millions of family budgets on a knife-edge, now is the time to do it. Supporting the well-being and life chances of children should be the nation’s number one priority. The Government must stop leaning on stretched school budgets and commit to this investment.”

Lindsey MacDonald, Chief Executive of  Magic Breakfast, said: “Scaling up breakfast provision funding alongside other out-of-school activities will help to ensure every child and young person has an equal start in life. Not only will this remove hunger from the classroom, it would protect investment in education by improving attendance, behaviour, and attainment.  The Government investment needed would pay for itself many times over in the increased economic opportunity it creates for young people and their families.”

In a new briefing published by CPAG and Magic Breakfast, children, parents and school staff give their views on extra-curricular provision. These include:

“A child was really struggling to settle down in the morning and was losing 45 minutes [of] education every day. We invited him and his sister to attend breakfast club free of charge, and now he is ready to learn every morning.’ ((Teacher, Magic Breakfast partner school)

“We have a family of three children which have, through the pandemic, accessed breakfast club daily. The eldest is a young carer for their mum. This enabled her to come to school early and took away some of the responsibility for her younger siblings. The siblings can have breakfast together and relax and chat with breakfast club supervisors before the start of the school day.” (Magic Breakfast school teacher) 

“The clubs help you find your passion for what you want.” (Year 5 pupil)

Magic Breakfast’s Hidden Hunger report identified that just one in four of the most disadvantaged pupils benefits from any funding for breakfast provision from central Government, with charitable support unable to plug gaps in a large number of schools.

* Read Children’s futures and the economic case for before- and after-school provision here.

* Read the Hidden Hunger report here.

* Source: Child Poverty Action Group