A council in Scotland is aiming to roll out a ‘Food 365’ scheme across several schools in the borough to help tackle what is called ‘Holiday Hunger’. North Lanarkshire has one of the highest levels of poverty and deprivation in the UK and according to charities and food banks, they are beginning to feel overstretched as the number of users has increased since the recession rocked the world.
Food is an essential part of life, more so when we’re young and learning, and it’s scientifically proven that malnourished children don’t learn as well as those that are well fed. It’s also key to improving behaviour in school. Less ‘hangry’ outbursts, improved concentration and increased energy levels.
The scheme could cost anywhere between £500,000 and £1million, and as that kind of money isn’t exactly sat in the coffers of the council, some cuts will have to made to the luxuries.
For example, does a school really need for all teachers to have executive leather desks and chairs? Does the school really have to buy 100 new text books (that haven’t been updated in 20 years) every year? Can the school live without licences to use Sibelius on all 400 computers when the only classroom that needs it only has 10?
We understand that wear and tear is part of living, and things do need replacing eventually, but there are 2 factors here. If the item is deliberately damaged, be it a book or window, the student (or their parents) MUST pay for its replacement. But if the item was already on its last legs, it should be audited and replaced with the next order. It’s called make do and mend, something the UK prides itself on.
Creative budgeting is tricky, though head teachers do seem to do quite well when it comes to the yearly increase in their salary. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think they should take pay cuts, but it does mean that their increases in salary should be taken into consideration and they are paid what they are worth and not given a guaranteed pay rise every year regardless of the schools OFSTED performance.
Something else that will greatly help the schools hoping to roll out the scheme, is getting parents to volunteer some of their time. Say a school of 1500 pupils, 5 or 10 parents, once a month volunteer to help with the scheme, meaning that the cost of canteen staff during the holidays and weekends is vastly reduced.
It’s all about looking at different angles on how to spread the wealth, and although a school budget on paper is huge, once you take into consideration how much it costs to run a school, it really isn’t that much, and adding on top of the running costs an extra half a million pounds is certainly not going to be a head teachers most joyous of accounting feats.
We need to look into permanent solutions, but for the time being, this is a good temporary solution.