'Instead of boosting the number of children taking up healthy school meals, government policy has contributed to an implosion of the service. There is no point serving healthy meals if pupils aren’t eating them. The new standards for healthier school meals have been introduced too quickly, too inflexibly, and with too little education of pupils and parents.'
Curious, because when the proposals surfaced in February 2005, the Liberal Democrat Phil Willis said
I'm delighted that at long last the government is taking steps to address the nutritional value of food in schools.
Later that year, another Lib Dem, Annette Brooke added that
The Liberal Democrats welcome a great many of the government's recent initiatives...Responsibility for the healthy diet of children, both in and out of school has to lie with parents and children themselves, with a significant dose of support and policy input from schools and government directly.
Sarah Teather thought that not enough had been done
The Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Sarah Teather, said Labour had wasted eight years failing to tackle childhood obesity. "Nine years and a celebrity chef later we have a junk food ban. This government has a lot to be modest about"
So, a couple of years ago, the Lib Dems leapt aboard the Jamie Oliver bandwagon, claiming that it was too late anyway, but they've now decided that the policy that they supported (and one they support in Scotland and Wales) hasn't worked because it was introduced too quickly. In typical Lib Dem style, they love to find a problem, but don't offer solutions.
Of course, they have their own skeleton in the cupboard regarding school meals. In Hull, the former Labour administration launched an experiment to provide all children, regardless of need, with free, good quality school meals. 65% of children had a hot lunch - almost twice the national figure. After just a year, teachers were reporting that children were more attentive in class and that discipline had improved, claims borne out by a study from Hull University
The University of Hull’s evaluation of the Council’s school meals project, which offers free healthy breakfasts, dinners and after school snacks to all primary school children in Hull, showed that classrooms are calmer now compared to three years ago when charges for school meals were scrapped. The study suggests free meals are benefiting all primary school children, not just the ones who eat them by creating calmer classroom environments that are more conducive to learning. Those who eat a hot lunch at school also perform better in the afternoon in concentration-type tests.Then the political complexion of the city changed and the Liberal Democrats took over and immediately decided to scrap the experiment. Public outcry held them back for eighteen months, but the trial has been allowed to end and parents in Hull once again face paying for meals.