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Academy food standards: LACA responds to SFT survey findings

15 May 2012

The School Food Trust (SFT) has today published the results of a survey conducted among a sample of 100 academies into their attitudes towards following the nutritional standards for school food.

Currently academies and free schools are exempt from the nutritional standards legislation that applies to all other maintained schools in England.

The SFT wrote a letter in January to the heads of more than 1,500 academies asking them to indicate their commitment to following the legislation and applying the standards across all food provision.

Of the 641 who responded, 635 said they were committed to following the regulations.

However, the SFT’s follow-up study of a sample of 100 academies shows a mixed picture, with some following the nutritional standards whilst others are not doing so well, particularly in relation to confectionery, soft drinks and fatty snacks.

One in six said their school was selling confectionery, one in four was selling crisps and savoury snacks and three quarters were selling soft drinks or squash.

Over half, too, were selling cereal bars, which are banned from schools under the national standards because they are often as high in sugar as confectionery.

LACA National Chair, Lynda Mitchell comments: “We are, of course, encouraged to see and acknowledge the great work many academy schools are doing in maintaining the nutritional standards that applied to them whilst they were maintained schools.

“However, it does not surprise LACA that the SFT survey shows that standards are slipping in a significant number of other academy schools.

“LACA has been raising its concerns since early last year when the Education Secretary assured us that academy heads ‘would do the right thing’ and ‘could be trusted’ to apply the standards without the need to amend the legislation.

“The feedback from academy heads suggests that this is not the case. LACA has evidence itself from around the country that many heads are allowing the return of banned food and drink items back into schools and now there is additional proof that our fears were justified.

“There is considerable financial temptation for academy heads to allow a slide backwards to the old ways, but there is a real danger that this erosion of standards could undermine the progress being made to ensure healthy eating in schools.

“We hope Mr Gove will learn from the research and take heed of the concerns of the school catering industry professionals who have extensive first-hand knowledge and expertise in this field.

“We call for the Secretary of State to reconsider, and to set mandatory nutritional standards that all schools should follow.

“Doing so would be a cost neutral solution to safeguarding the future health of young people, and could reverse the ticking obesity time bomb and avoid poor health for future generations.”

LACA National Chair, Lynda Mitchell has also been quoted on the Guardian website. Click here to take a look.