Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Children and Young Peoples plan

Below is the submission I have made on behalf of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools to get improving secondary school meals as a priority area for Merton.

Submission for Merton's Children and Young Peoples Plan.

I am writing on behalf of Merton Parents for Better Food in Schools to contribute to CYPP 2010.

We note that childhood obesity in Merton is 2% above the national average and welcome the fact it has been chosen as a priority for the authority to overcome. We believe a key way to tackle this would be to set ourselves the challenge of ensuring that every single secondary school student in Merton has the opportunity to eat a decent, freshly prepared school lunch in a comfortable area without being asked to chosse between school activities or lunch.

Merton Parents congratulates the borough for the fantastic investment it has made in school kitchens in the primary schools and the improved relationships with the caterers which has led to an increase of fruit and vegetables being consumed by primary schools children. We now want to see the same passion and enthusiasm and investment in the community secondary schools.

We are encouraged by the start that contracts manager Tom Proctor has made.However unless head teachers are able to either consider timetabling the lunch period or investing in much larger dining rooms many children and young people will be denied a good lunch.
We believe that putting improving secondary school dinners as a priority will help in the following three areas

1. Raising standards. Recent research has shown secondary school students showed a 15% rise in both concentration and learning in the afternoon in schools that improved the lunchtime. You can find details of the study here

2. Addressing poverty issues. At the moment many free school meal students do not take them up because they percieve the food to be worthess. Those that are registered are often not fed because they are put off by the length of the queues and do not wish to sacrifice their break to queuing. Some schools also expect students to see staff or take part in extra curricula activities at lunch times which then makes it impossible for students to take a school lunch. Given the harsh economic climate we would like to see schools do all they can to maximise take up of free school meals. Also increasing take up will ensure meal prices will remain relatively low for all students.

3.Obesity agenda. There is research that shows children who eat a school dinner eat more fruit and vegetables than children who eat packed lunches. It will be easier to teach PSHE if the school can demonstrate in practise that healthy eating can be tasty.

4. Would help us meet local authority targets NI52 and help with Ofsted inspections.

We do recognise the many pressure that the local authority is under and appreciate that difficult decisions sometimes have to be made for the good of the whole. However we strongly believe that choosing to put the development of secondary school dinners as a priority for the CYPP would benefit children, young people, their parents, teachers and the PCT.

Finally, we would ask you to have a look at the aims and objectives for secondary school meals that Merton Parents has agreed with the authority.

Thank you for inviting us to the stakeholder event and encouraging us to participate. We look forward to working with you in 2010. Please do not hesitate to ask if you need any further information or references.