Breakfast clubs are about much more than just breakfast.
These early-morning sanctuaries can play an important role in ensuring your students are prepared for the day ahead, promote health and wellbeing, and provide a space for before-school social and educational activities.
More than half a million children are going to school hungry in the UK. For students who don’t have the opportunity to eat breakfast at home, breakfast clubs enable them to kick-start their day with a nutritious meal which fuels their levels of concentration and improves their ability to digest information in lessons.
The breakfast club challenge
When implementing our breakfast club at Hatch End High School in London, a major challenge we experienced was reaching the students who could benefit from the club the most. While the club is regularly attended by some of the most engaged students in our school, these students are more likely than some of their peers to eat an adequate breakfast at home. We also found that students who travel longer distances to get into school are less likely to attend than their peers. However, despite these challenges, we built a core membership who return regularly, if not daily.
Breakfast club at Hatch End starts at 7.30am and lasts for one hour. We usually cater for between five and ten students but sometimes up to 30 can attend. We employ staff to supervise the club and work in the kitchen, where students can purchase pastries, bacon sandwiches and toast. While they refuel, students can complete their homework, read a book, colour in stencils and play Sudoku.
"Our breakfast club has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the students, who are now more focused and engaged in lessons. "
Our breakfast club has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the students, who are now more focused and engaged in lessons. It is great to see them develop positive relationships with members of staff, and seize the opportunity to socialise and bond with students from different year groups. Having time to engage with adults and peers at the start of the day puts these students in the right frame of mind for learning for the rest of the day.
For a handful of our students who live quite chaotic lives outside of school, their regular attendance at the breakfast club gives them a space to separate the challenges they face outside of school and, ultimately, prepares for them busy day ahead.
Making your breakfast club a success
My advice for those who want to set up their own breakfast club:
- Ensure students on Free School Meals (FSM) also receive a free breakfast as well as lunch, to attract the most disadvantaged students who will benefit the most
- Ensure the breakfast club is heavily promoted, so that it is clearly visible on the school website and open to everyone, but with specific letters going home to parents of children who are on FSM
- Once a core membership is established, it is important that they continue to attend. Consider providing the club with a budget and allowing members to decide how it is spent. For example, they could choose a selection of books to promote literacy
- If using the Pupil Premium budget to fund the breakfast club, measure the impact by analysing attendance rates and attitudes to learning amongst those who are attending
While there are challenges to setting up an effective breakfast club, I believe these are far outweighed by the importance of ensuring your students get the best possible start to the day.
This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019, the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.