The number of children attending council-run breakfast clubs has fallen by as much as 80% at schools in poorer areas of Dundee, a councillor has claimed.
Labour Lochee member Michael Marra made the claim following an 800% rise in council breakfast club fees at the start of the 2019/20 school year.
A freedom of information request made by the Tele revealed attendance fell by 10% immediately after the start of term – blamed by some on the hike in fees.
However, the councillor told Dundee’s children and family services committee the dip in some schools could be much deeper.
He said: “We (the Labour group) do have concerns since it is indicated there was an 800% increase in breakfast club fees which in my understanding is leading to decreases in the number of children attending.
“That is leading to ‘ad-hoc’ hunger clubs being set up subsequently.
“I know one school talking about an 80% dip in attendance and that’s in one of the poorest areas of the city.
“It’s something we really need to keep a close eye on.”
The committee was being given an update on the Cost of the School Day project, which seeks to reduce inequality between pupils from different backgrounds by removing and reducing “hidden” costs associated with education.
One of the four tenets of the project is that “no child or young person in Dundee will start school without a breakfast”. But earlier this year claims emerged of teachers bracing to make plates of toast for children of “squeezed middle” parents who are not eligible for free meals but are in work.
Offically, the council operates two levels of breakfast club: the payable club, at £2 a day (up from 25p), which education chiefs say are used predominantly for childcare, and “formal” breakfast clubs which are directly targeted at children from deprived backgrounds.
The latter are funded by Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) cash from the Scottish Government.
Committee convener Stewart Hunter, responding to Mr Marra, said: “The breakfast clubs, despite their names, the priority is to allow children to be dropped off early.
“What has been done through PEF is additional breakfast clubs for children we know are turning up without being fed.”
Children and family services executive director Paul Clancy added that around 20% of kids attending the payable clubs don’t eat breakfast at all.
He added: “I don’t have the figures in front of me, but we are making use of PEF funds heavily targeted at those who need funded support through school. They (the clubs) are certainly not ‘ad-hoc’.
“We would like to provide more places – there is still a significant number of PEF breakfast clubs and that remains a priority for us.”