THOUSANDS of the most vulnerable children in the North-East could lose their free school breakfast every school day from next April after the Government refused to guarantee funding, an MP has warned.

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has called on the Government to commit to continue funding the National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP) after March 2020 – stating that failure to do so would have a detrimental effect on children’s education, especially in his constituency.

The NSBP is active in 1,775 schools – nine of them in Mr Cunningham's Stockton North constituency – and provides free and nutritious breakfasts to 280,000 children nationwide. An average of 153 children in Stockton North currently benefit from the programme.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Cunningham said major part of the NSBP is to boost educational attainment, with an evaluation of the Magic Breakfast model carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding that children in primary schools where free, universal breakfast is provided achieve an average of two months additional academic progress in reading and maths over the course of a year compared to children in schools with no such provision in place.

After he raised the issue in Parliament during Education Questions earlier this week, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Education Nadhim Zahawi said that all funding decisions would examined during the Chancellor’s Spending Review, leaving the future of the NSBP up in the air.

Mr Cunningham said: “The findings are clear that a nutritious breakfast reduce educational attainment gaps between pupils and support children to develop lifelong healthy eating habits. Without a guarantee of funding, children in our most disadvantaged areas will lose out – not just when it comes to breakfast, but when it comes to ensuring they can achieve their own unique potential, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

“I’m urging the Government to commit further funding to this hugely important programme.”