School dinner sizes increase amid cost of living crisis

Costessey Junior School dinners. A choice of vegetables to go with the roast dinner. Picture: DENISE

Acle Academy has increased the portions of its school dinners in response to the cost of living crisis - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Schools have increased the size of their dinners and introduced cheaper uniforms as part of a range of measures to help families struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Senior staff say they are looking for ways to ease the financial burdens on families, amid fears that children's education could be suffering as a result of the squeeze on living standards.

A survey of schools across the region found a series of innovative measures being introduced in an effort to help out, including: 

  • Price reductions on breaktime snacks
  • Handing out leftover food to families
  • Passing on donated bicycles to allow pupils to get to school
  • Organising second-hand uniform discount sales, to help parents reduce their spending.
Daniel Thrower, chief executive of the Wensum Trust

Daniel Thrower, chief executive of the Wensum Trust - Credit: Wensum Trust

Wensum Trust, which runs several Norfolk schools, is among those to bring in a number of changes.

Daniel Thrower, its chief executive, said: "We believe prioritising an individual's mental health and wellbeing lays the foundation for future relationships, better health, positive engagement and successful learning. Therefore, our schools are always looking to support families in any way they can."

At Wells-next-the-Sea Primary and Nursery - which is run by the trust - surplus fruit, vegetables and milk is given to parents on Fridays.

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The school has also set up a second-hand uniform rail - for parents to help themselves to donated items - and established a link with Wells Community Hospital to make sure lower-income families are able to access further help if they need it.


DONATED BIKES AND RECYCLED UNIFORM

Different measures have been introduced at its secondary schools, including Hellesdon High and Acle Academy, including running a scheme to pass on donated bicycles, checking they are safe and then handing them on to pupils.

Mr Thrower added: "[We have] breakfast clubs, bus passes to support transport to school, free bikes, uniform and food vouchers and recycled uniform at Hellesdon High School.

"In recognition of the financial hardship many families are experiencing, Acle Academy has provided free breakfast to children in receipt of free school meals in addition to the government-funded free lunch.

"They have also increased portion sizes of lunch-time meals and decreased prices of snacks available at break time.

"The school has also liaised with its uniform suppliers and is introducing a significantly cheaper PE uniform from September.

"The PTA is also organising a second hand uniform shop to ensure that good quality uniform can be reused."

He also said that at the Trust's secondary schools, students were being taught how to budget effectively and the realities of how much it costs to run a household.


FREE DENTAL CHECKS

Another innovative scheme has been launched at West Earlham Infant and Nursery, which arranged for all of its pupils to have free dental check-ups to assist parents who were unable to get appointments or afford private treatment.

Deputy headteacher Jade Hunter said: "We share posts on our school Facebook page if we see something that could support our families like holiday clubs, centres that offer meals or cheaper broadband deals - anything that can help. 

"The most critical part of this support though is relationships. You have got to have a relationship with parents to be able to sensitively offer support in a way that will not be belittling or condescending."


PARTNERSHIP WITH GREGGS

Oliver Burwood has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and

Oliver Burwood has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT). Picture: DNEAT - Credit: DNEAT

Oliver Burwood, chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academy Trust (DNEAT), said: "Many of our schools run free breakfast clubs, for example, Peterhouse Church of England Academy is in partnership with Greggs to ensure children get the right start to their days.

"Our schools also play a key role in signposting for financial and other support, so families know where to go."

The link-up with Greggs has seen some products distributed among pupils.

Thomas Bullock CofE Primary Academy in Shipdham, which is part of the Trust, has set up hardship fund to help families who are struggling financially.

Headteacher Shannon O'Sullivan, said: "We are too aware of the impact the current cost of living crisis is having on our families.

Thomas Bullock Primary Academy headteacher Shannon O’Sullivan.

Thomas Bullock Primary Academy headteacher Shannon O’Sullivan. - Credit: Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust

"We have very strong relationships with our families and offer an open-door policy for families to come and talk to us about anything that we can help support them with.

"It there is anything we can do to help ease the pressures for our families we will absolutely do our best to do this."