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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 13:25 GMT
Free breakfasts in schools
Children eating school meals
Critics say there are 'big questions' over the proposal

Welsh assembly members have voted to accept plans to provide primary school children with free breakfasts.

Medical experts and educationalists have long held the view that a good breakfast is essential to helping pupils' performance in school.

And new research unveiled earlier this week claimed that children who missed proper breakfasts shared the same reaction times as people in their 70s.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) also backed the plan believing it would help pupils concentrate, socialise more and help parents who are under pressure to get to work.

Assembly proposals
Schools in socially deprived areas will pilot the scheme in 2004
By September 2006, all primary schools will have the chance to participate.
Local sourcing of food where possible
Of Wales' 1,700 primary schools, 34 currently offer breakfasts
Money will not be taken out of the education budget
Breakfasts will consist of cereals, fruit and toast - high nutritional value
Spokeswoman Heledd Hayes said she was confident no extra pressure would be put on teachers and that extra staff would be brought in.

But the Welsh Assembly Government's plan is still likely to face criticism after it was put to the vote on Tuesday in the chamber.

Opposition parties have described it as flawed and "a gimmick".

While they say the idea is well-intentioned, they are concerned it has not been properly thought out and that it will come at the expense of other education policies such as smaller classes and building repairs.

But Welsh Labour insist they can pay for it and it will start in September 2004.

In a visit to Pentrechwyth primary school in Swansea, which already provides a cheap breakfast for pupils, First Minister Rhodri Morgan told BBC Wales he had had good feedback from the children.

"It isn't simply a matter of, 'I like jam on my toast' or 'I like cereals', or whatever.

"They seemed to understand what good it's doing them and I'm very pleased about that," he said.

There could be a lot of expenditure and we don't know which part of the education budget it's going to come from
Mike German AM
But assembly Liberal Democrat leader Mike German told BBC Radio Wales that there were "big questions".

"We don't know for example who much this is going to cost," he said.

"If it's going to be voluntary, who's going to take it up, who's going to provide the staff, how much is to going to cost?"


Research revealed on Monday showed that children who miss proper breakfasts in favour of sugary snacks end up with the reaction times of pensioners.

The study at Reading University - published in the journal Appetite - found that nine to 16-year-olds performed better at mental tasks after a traditional breakfast.

Conventional breakfasts such as cereals or toast have more "complex carbohydrates", while snacks tend to have more "simple carbohydrates" such as sugars.

These give an initial energy boost, but complex carbohydrates can release energy over a longer period.

Girls 'do better on breakfast'
29 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland
Skipped meals health risk
03 Jan 01  |  Health

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