According to a study, children who eat a healthy breakfast prior to starting the school day achieve better academic results than students who do not.
Public health specialists at Cardiff University who did the research state that their findings provide powerful evidence of a positive and direct link between educational attainment and eating healthy breakfast.
Published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, their report indicates that compared with those who did not; the chances of achieving an above-average score in tests at the age of 11 were up to twice as high for students who ate healthy breakfast.
There is already significant research into the connections between eating healthy breakfast and measures of focus and concentration; however this is the first to display a “meaningful” connection between eating healthy breakfast and concrete measures of academic achievement, according to the authors.
Lead author of the study, Hannah Littlecott, stated that although healthy breakfast consumption has consistently linked to general health outcomes and sharp measures of cognitive function and concentration, evidence for connections to concrete educational results has been unclear until now.
Pupils who participated in the study were requested to chronologically list all the food and drink they had consumed during the last 24 hours, from the previous day’s breakfast to breakfast the day they wrote their food lists.
The pupils’ breakfast eating habits were later connected to their scores in major stage 2 teacher assessments (conducted 6 to 18 months after the questionnaire), which were employed to measure pupils’ academic achievement at the end of primary schooling in Wales.
The study found that eating a healthy breakfast – made up of cereal, dairy, bread and fruit – could improve academic performance, while eating unhealthy foodstuffs such as crisps and sweets for breakfast – which was stated by one in five children – lacked any positive effect on educational achievement.
According to 2012 figures featured in the report, almost half of schools in England already provide breakfast clubs for students, especially in areas of deprivation. In Wales, primary schools are provided with a free breakfast initiative.
A charity providing free breakfasts to over 22,000 children a day, Magic Breakfast, stated that every child should have access to a healthy breakfast at the beginning of the school day.
Chief executive of Magic Breakfast, Carmel McConnell, welcomed the study’s concrete evidence that a healthy breakfast creates academic benefits. McConnell stated that this is exactly what their 460 school partners tell them every day, and with results like this for so little financial investment, the UK should be doing more.
With more than half a million children getting to school to hungry to learn, now is the time to fund this cost-effective, simple measure to narrow the achievement gap.