Nearly 90% of children are eating a school meal every day, according to a new survey of parents in England (@ParentPay)

One of the largest studies ever undertaken on the subject reveals the popularity of school meals and the extent of the cashless revolution in education.

A new ground-breaking survey of almost 140,000 parents conducted by ParentPay, the UK’s largest edtech and provider of cashless payments for schools, in partnership with LACA – The School Food People - has shown that nearly 90% of children who choose a school meal are eating a school meal every day.  97.7% of parents, meanwhile, believe that cooking should be on the school curriculum.

The survey of ParentPay users revealed strong agreement with the conclusions of the National Food Strategy and the School Food Plan, which state that schools should "instill a love of cooking in pupils”, while teaching them the kitchen skills necessary “to feed themselves and others affordably and well, now and in later life".

The continued growth of cashless payments in schools was also revealed by the survey, with 82% of parents reporting that their school no longer accepts physical currency for school meals or activities. What’s more, almost 99% of parents plan to pay for school-related costs online post pandemic.

Notably, the survey found:

  • The vast majority of parents surveyed said that their children are eating school lunches. 88.8% of primary school children are choosing a school meal at least one day a week; this increases in secondary school with 91.8% of children opting for a school lunch at least once a week.
  • 87.9% of pupils choosing a school meal are eating one every day of the week.
  • 80% of parents feel that school meals are priced correctly.
  • Key initiatives such as ‘Eat and Learn’ outlined in the recommendations of the National Food Strategy report should be prioritised and would be well received by parents.

When asked what factors would make parents more likely to choose school meals more frequently or to switch from packed lunches to school meals, respondents stated they would like to see more options for pupils to be able to choose their meals, more variation on hot and cold options and lower costs for hot school meals.

Sustainability is also important to parents and carers: almost 30% of parents responding said that sustainability and ethical sourcing of ingredients is a factor they consider when choosing to select school meals. Allergen management is also key: the survey found that 6.8% of respondents reported that they have a child with at least one food allergy. The top 5 allergies were peanuts (1.8%), milk (1.6%), eggs (0.9%), nuts (0.54%) and fish (0.53%).

While vast strides have been made in improving school meals, some topics raised by parents shows there is more work to be done by schools in terms of communicating on key issues that include:

    • Allergen management
    • Special dietary options
    • Nutritional information – 25% of parents highlighted this as an area they would like to hear more about from their schools
    • Sustainable sourcing and its impacts
    • Healthy and nutritious menu choices
    • Clear visibility on the week’s menu options
    • The ability to order meals in advance.

Following the survey, LACA and ParentPay recommend the following for caterers and schools:

  1. Teachers and senior leadership teams need to engage with caterers for a whole school approach (including parents and pupils) to promote the benefits of healthy choices.
  2. Develop wrap-around provisions, providing meals or snacks during breakfast and at after-school clubs.
  3. Engage with parents and pupils to provide relevant tools and information that reassure parents, including special diets and allergens.
  4. Invest in technology that will improve parent and pupil experience of school meals. Taking meal management online and reducing paper processes also saves schools and caterers time and money.
  5. Support the recommendation to enable cooking and food education on the school curriculum.
  6. Communicate to parents and children the importance of food sourcing and sustainability, particularly the impact this can have on health and the environment.

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Chair of LACA Jacquie Blake said:  

“This ground-breaking survey demonstrates the value that parents and carers place on their children’s school meal. Almost 90% of children who choose a school meal are eating one every day, highlighting the impressive strides our industry has taken over the last few years to make school meals appealing to children and their parents. We agree with parents’ views that cooking should be on the school curriculum so that children are provided with the skills they need to cook healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and others later in life. LACA hope that caterers and schools agree with our recommendations, and we would like to offer our support to members in helping make parents’ and children’s vision for school food a reality.”

Head of Sales at Cypad (part of ParentPay Group) Merica Wilsher said:

“We are delighted with the response and enthusiasm from parents for this survey – demonstrating how engaged parents across the UK are in their children’s school mealtimes. The fact that the results show a quarter of parents feel that allergies aren’t managed correctly highlights the ongoing need for accurate and efficient digital allergy management, especially in the wake of Natasha’s Law. It’s great to know that Cypad and ParentPay offer services that give parents the confidence in their child’s school meal provision, and this survey gives us a base to build on in the future to track the changing views of school meals from parents.”

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page