The Magic Breakfast project provided schools with support and resources to offer a free, universal, before-school breakfast club, including to all Year 2 and Year 6 pupils. The aim of the project was to improve attainment outcomes by increasing the number of children who ate a healthy breakfast.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies
Organising your school
The EEF tested the impact of Magic Breakfast clubs on pupil attainment in relatively disadvantaged primary schools. There has been considerable interest in school meals over recent years, including the introduction of universal infant free school meals and breakfast club pilots in England, and new policy on breakfast provision in Wales. We funded this project because despite the policy interest, there was limited evidence of the impact of breakfast clubs on attainment.
Our evaluation found that supporting schools to run a free of charge, universal breakfast club before school delivered an average of 2 months’ additional progress for pupils. Interestingly, it appears that it was not whether more pupils ate breakfast at all that made the difference, but whether more were going to the school breakfast club. It may be that school breakfasts are more nutritious, or that attending the club effectively prepares pupils for learning. Breakfast club schools also saw an improvement in pupil behaviour. This suggests that breakfast clubs provide an opportunity to improve outcomes for all children, not just those who attend breakfast club, through better classroom environments.
Schools should consider breakfast clubs as a cost effective way to raise pupil attainment. Schools wishing to achieve a similar impact of 2 months’ additional progress should aim to deliver a breakfast club similar to the model tested here: free, universal and before school.
Year 2 children in breakfast club schools experienced around two months’ additional progress compared to Year 2 children in the other schools in the trial. These positive results would be unlikely to occur by chance.
For Year 6 children in breakfast club schools, results for the main outcomes, reading and maths, were positive but could have occurred by chance. However, on other measures of writing and English they experienced around two months’ progress compared to the other Year 6 children. These positive results would be unlikely to occur by chance.
The findings suggest that it is not just eating breakfast that delivers improvements, but attending a breakfast club. This could be due to the content of the breakfast itself, or to other social or educational benefits of the club.
Pupil behaviour, as measured by a teacher survey, improved in breakfast club schools. This is interesting because it shows that breakfast clubs may improve outcomes for children who do not even attend breakfast club, by improving classroom environments.
Activities thought to increase take-up of the breakfast provision included promoting it to parents and encouraging all children to attend while sensitively targeting pupils most likely to benefit. The project required additional staff time which some schools found difficult to provide without charging for breakfast.
Full project descriptionkeyboard_arrow_up keyboard_arrow_down
The Magic Breakfast project provided 106 schools with support and resources to offer a free, universal, before-school breakfast club, including to all Year 2 and Year 6 pupils. The aim of the project was to improve attainment outcomes by increasing the number of children who ate a healthy breakfast. The schools in the project were schools in England with a relatively high proportion of disadvantaged pupils. The project ran between September 2014 and July 2015. Schools were provided with free food, support from a Magic Breakfast school change leader, and a £300 grant towards up-front costs. The intervention itself was delivered by school staff and volunteers.
The impact of the project was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial involving around 8,600 pupils. The process evaluation involved qualitative research with four case study schools. The project was jointly funded by the Department for Education and the Education Endowment Foundation and delivered by the charity Magic Breakfast.