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More primary pupils are now tucking into healthy school meals and setting the standard for secondaries to follow, a...
More primary pupils are now tucking into healthy school meals and setting the standard for secondaries to follow, according to latest statistics.

School dinners are being transformed as part of the Executive's Hungry for Success initiative - which has drastically cut salt, fat and sugar content in meals.

Primaries have been serving up the healthy fare since the end of 2004 while secondary schools are now in the process of delivering changed menus.

Education minister Peter Peacock has again highlighted the Executive's commitment to turn round the eating habits of the nation. He said the work to tackle the problem of childhood obesity and ensure children developed lifelong healthy eating habits would need commitment and drive over many years.

The statistics - School Meals in Scotland 2006 - show:

47.3 per cent of primary pupils took a school lunch on census day - up from 46.6 per cent in 2005

43.4 per cent of secondary pupils took a school lunch - down from 45.9 per cent

68.5 per cent of pupils entitled to a free school meal ate one on census day - up from 67.4 per cent

22 councils saw an increase in school meal uptake in primaries. For instance, uptake in Dundee increased by 10.2 per cent; Perth and Kinross saw an increase of 6.1 per cent while both Argyll and Bute and Moray increased uptake by 4.7 per cent

Mr Peacock said:

'We have always known that bringing about such huge change in the eating habits of the nation would not happen overnight, but would require sustained effort. Our primary schools - the first to make the changes - are seeing the benefit of that sustained effort, with take-up rising overall and in some councils by a significant amount.

'Although one third of councils have increased uptake in secondary as well, it's vital that all secondary schools learn lessons from their primary colleagues. Councils which phased in menu changes and involved pupils had consistently higher participation rates. Where change happened too quickly or was not as well planned, we saw uptake fall but that trend is now being reversed as pupils learn how tasty healthy food can be.

'Hungry for Success was never intended to be a quick fix but it's vital that we act now to improve the eating habits of future generations and fight obesity. We're committed to helping Scotland shake off the sick man of Europe tag and that's why we're in this for the long haul.'

The statistics show that, while improving, 30 per cent of those eligible to take free school meals do not do so. The Executive plans to legislate to place a duty on councils to promote take-up of free school meals.

The statistics also show that, while improving significantly, the majority of schools do not yet anonymise those in receipt of free school meals. The Executive plans to legislate to require all councils to anonymise take up of free school meals.

Hungry for Success introduced nutritional standards for school meals. Primary schools had to meet these from December 2004. Secondary schools have until December 2006. Nutritional guidance for pre-school and child care providers was published in January 2006.

The Executive has provided£135 million funding to local authorities to implement Hungry for Success. An interim report from HMIE found that Hungry for Success was improving the quality of school meals across the country.

Schools in Scotland are already working towards becoming health promoting schools. This involves a whole school approach to promoting the physical, social, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being of all pupils and staff.

The Executive's policies to improve health have received endorsements from the World Health Organisation and the European Commission as the example for other countries to follow.

School meals in Scotland 2006

Statistics published today provide results of the latest annual survey of school meals.

The information was collected in early 2006 from all publicly funded schools in Scotland and, for the second time, the figures include information about local authority expenditure on meals.

The main findings for 2006 are:

School meals (free or purchased)

Overall in 2004-05, local authorities spent£101 million preparing over 57 million meals, compared to£97 million spent preparing 60 million meals in 2003-04. A further£3.1 million was spent on school milk programmes.

Of those pupils present on the survey day, 46.1 per cent took a meal supplied by the school, a slight decrease from 46.7 per cent in 2005. The percentage taking meals in primary schools has actually increased slightly, but this was offset by decreases in the secondary and special sectors.

Percentage of pupils taking meals was generally higher in smaller schools and in schools in more rural areas.

Free school meals

Eighteen per cent of pupils were known to be entitled to free school meals. This is down from 19 per cent in 2005. Sixteen per cent of all pupils were registered for free school meals.

Of those entitled, 69 per cent were present and took a free school meal on the survey day, up from 67 per cent in 2005. This increase reverses the trend of recent years. This equates to 13 per cent of all pupils.

Forty-four per cent of mainstream schools had an anonymised system for free school meals receipt, up from 33 per cent in 2005.

Healthy eating

All local authority primary school gave free fresh fruit to P1 and P2 pupils, and 91 per cent of all schools had free fresh chilled water available to pupils and staff at all times, down from 94 per cent in 2005. This decrease is likely to be artificial, being explained by revised guidance which reinforced the criteria required for a school being counted as providing water.

Thirty-three per cent of all schools provided a breakfast club service to pupils. Provision of breakfast clubs was more common in those schools with higher rates of deprivation.

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