If you’re clicked here before, you might know that we’ve declared November Time for Lunch Month on our FoodInSchools blog.
Read why – or read on for some of the statistics which got us thinking about this issue. They’re from a survey of teachers at more than 1200 schools which we commissioned from the National Foundation for Education Research:
• Only 38% of teachers from secondary schools said their school gives pupils 50 minutes or more for their lunchbreak
• Just under a quarter of teachers from secondary schools (24%) said their school gives their pupils less than 40 minutes for lunchtime
• Nearly a quarter of teachers across all schools (23%) have seen lunchtime get shorter at their school in the last two years
• Of the secondary teachers who said lunchtime had got shorter at their school, almost half (43%) had seen it shrink by more than 11 minutes. Some (9%) said their school had shaved more than 20 minutes off the lunchbreak
• 9% of primary teachers and 15% of secondary teachers said it was likely that their school’s lunchtime would get shorter in future
Worrying reading, isn’t it?
Lunchtime in schools is busy; every pupil needs to eat a good lunch and also needs some ‘down time’ – whether that’s attending a club or taking part in an activity, or simply relaxing with friends and taking time out from their studies.
But the less time pupils get for lunch, the more they prioritise how they spend that time. We know from our research with teenagers that they’re most likely to start squeezing out time for eating, opting for something very quick to grab and eat on the run. That means it’s less likely they’ll eat a balanced meal, perhaps choosing just a dessert or a quick sandwich, leaving them more likely to be missing out on nutrients and energy.
Here are our five things you can do to encourage and help your school to make time for lunch:
• Talk to other parents if you don’t think children are getting enough time to eat. See if they share your concerns – and if they do, talk to a parent governor for your school to see if they can take the issue further
• Support cashless systems for paying for school meals if your child’s at secondary school. Systems which take the cash out of the canteen can make mealtimes much quicker and help cut the queues.
• Pre-order school meals if your child’s primary school offers this. Take a look at the menu at home with your child, and let school know what they’ll opt for this week. It saves time in the dining room, as little ones can sometimes take a while to choose their meal!
• If you manage to get talking to governors or teachers about this issue, point them to our website. There’s loads of information for schools there about how to make lunchtimes more efficient
Jayne’s one of our children’s food advisors and helps schools to make the most of the time they have for lunch. Email Jayne.