Page last updated at 07:03 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Funding row as 1,000th Welsh school offers breakfast

Toast
The free breakfast scheme is now offered in 66% of primary schools in Wales

As the 1,000th school in Wales signs up to the assembly government's free breakfast programme, a row has broken out about the funding of the scheme.

Free breakfasts started in 2004 to ensure the poorest children did not start the school day hungry.

Schools across Wales offer the service, which cost £8.3m last year.

But the Conservatives said the money would be better spent elsewhere and that parents should be responsible for feeding their children.

Tory education spokesman Paul Davies said: "In such a difficult financial climate this is money which could have been used elsewhere within the education system rather than subsidising something that should be the responsibility of parents.

"We, of course, want to see children receive a healthy, balanced diet.

They should be investing in education, not toast and cornflakes
Paul Davies AM, Welsh Tories

"But the growing expense of this scheme is something the education minister's much-publicised spending review should take a long, hard look at.

"Ministers should ask themselves: 'Is this something we can now afford'? They should be investing in education, not toast and cornflakes."

But Education Minister Leighton Andrews responded by saying that children's health and concentration was improved by eating breakfast.

"In providing free school breakfasts, our aim is to ensure that our youngest children are given a flying start in life," he said.

In providing free school breakfasts, our aim is to ensure that our youngest children are given a flying start in life
Education Minister Leighton Andrews

"This can have a knock-on effect in the raising of standards of learning and attainment."

Official figures show that about 66% of primary schools in Wales now offer free breakfasts to pupils.

The latest school to take up the scheme is Cardiff's Baden Powell Primary School in the Tremorfa area of the city.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "There are many advantages of schools choosing to make a commitment to offering children a free healthy breakfast.

"One Wales [the Labour-Plaid Cymru assembly government coalition deal] commits us to maintaining the programme of free school breakfasts and we look forward to even more schools taking up the scheme."



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