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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 11:04 GMT
Free breakfast scheme criticised
Schoolchildren (generic)
Primary children will be able to get a free breakfast in school
A free school breakfast scheme launched by the Welsh Assembly Government's has been criticised by one of Wales' main teaching unions.

NASUWT Cymru said some staff would end up with a heavier workload, and the money would be better spent hiring more teachers.

The scheme's roll-out across 48 primary schools was launched on Wednesday.

Over the next two years, all 1,600 primaries in Wales will be able to join the scheme.

The plan has been promoted by the assembly government since the assembly elections in 2003.

The responsibility for providing a solid breakfast should rest with parents
Geraint Davies NASUWT

This term, the scheme has been introduced at some schools in nine local authority areas.

Selected schools in Pembrokeshire, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Anglesey, Wrexham, and Denbighshire are taking part.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Education Minister Jane Davidson and Olympic triathlete Marc Jenkins launched the initiative at Glan y Mor Primary School, in Port Talbot.

Social Justice Minister, Edwina Hart, also marked it at Bigyn County Primary School, Llanelli.

Fifty additional schools from Gwynedd, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Flintshire have been invited to participate in the pilot from January 2005, before the scheme is rolled out across Wales allowing all 1,600 primaries in Wales to join.

'Improving teaching'

But the NASUWT believes, the money would be better spent on more teachers.

Union secretary, Geraint Davies, said: "We are concerned that the millions being spent on this scheme could be far better used in terms of improving teaching and learning throughout Wales."

They also claim the first pilots show there is more pressure on senior staff to manage the schemes.

"If a school opens at 7.30am for an early breakfast then the head teacher will feel obliged to be on duty and that will add to the workload," he said.

"In terms of the nutritional value of having a proper breakfast, I'm very much in favour of that.

"But in terms of the scheme itself, I have, and so do my members, certain doubts in that we believe that the responsibility for providing a solid breakfast should rest with the parents."

'Enough food'

The assembly government has said that good nutrition and education go hand-in-hand with the introduction of free breakfasts.

Speaking on BBC Radio Cymru, Education Minister Jane Davidson refused the union's point of view.

"Giving breakfast is a good idea to help pupils to concentrate and make sure some children have enough food for the day," she said.

She also said that there were a number of reasons why parents can not give their children breakfast and that the breakfast clubs will help the children and help their education.

But Plaid Cymru education spokesperson Janet Ryder AM claimed that the cost of the free breakfast scheme was potentially excessive, and argued against "blanket provision".

"There are advantages for some who would not otherwise eat breakfast, but two breakfasts for some children would not be a desirable situation," she said.

Free breakfasts in schools
11 Nov 03 |  Wales
Girls 'do better on breakfast'
29 Sep 03 |  Northern Ireland

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