Following the Conservative’s manifesto proposal of free breakfasts for primary school children, Kerry Jordan-Daus asks: what value education?

So how much will it cost to provide breakfast for all primary school children? Can we make savings by replacing a free lunch with a free breakfast? In these times of budget pressures, there are few of us who are not having to look at costs, income and expenditure, making the books balance. These challenges face Heads of NHS Trusts, University Vice-Chancellors, School Leaders, and ‘just about managing families’.

So, what can we afford?

When it comes to education, it’s the Conservative policy proposal to take away a free school dinner for all children up to seven years, and replace this with a free breakfast for all primary school children. A breakfast for 7p or 25p, depending on which news feed you read. Is this saving really such a great idea? Others, for example Jamie Oliver, have vented fury at this proposal asking if we value the long term health and wellbeing of young children?

But the money that this would save could go back into the school budgets; it could pay for staff, materials, buildings and more besides. So, what do we value most or more? When the money is short we have to go back to values to inform the difficult decisions we need to make.

We need to pause and consider what message about our values we are giving if we really think that breakfast can be provided at 25p for each child. What message are we giving about how we value education if we think that the savings on school lunches will be enough to ensure our schools’ budgets balance?

Last week I was proud to be involved in a celebration valuing all the people who work and volunteer and support our schools across Kent and Medway. KM Charities, Teacher of the Year 2017, showed how much we value the work done by teachers, support staff, governors, caretakers, volunteers and a host of others. For Canterbury Christ Church University, by supporting this Charity, we too are saying ‘we value you’. Each winner is nominated by colleagues, parents and children from their school. They are saying in a very public way, ‘we value you’.

We must place a greater value on our children, on our teachers, on our schools. Where should we be making savings? Well, it’s all about what you value? Do we value children’s health and wellbeing? Do we value education?

Balancing a budget is difficult, but this policy choice needs to be reconsidered. Let’s go back to our values.

 

Kerry Jordan-Daus is Head of UK and International Partnerships for the Faculty of Education.