Jamie Oliver has renewed his call for a universal set of nutritional standards for all schools, including state maintained, academies and free schools, after new research showed that 92% of parents supported the measure.
A new survey of 12,000 parents by LACA and ParentPay revealed the findings, which coincide with the start of National School Meals Week 2012.
Jamie Oliver said: "It's blatantly clear from the outcome of the LACA/ParentPay survey - which is a direct representation of what busy parents in this day and age actually think - what a humungous impact health has on our lives. I just hope that they show the results to Mr Gove education secretary] and that he does something positive with the data."
The survey found that while parents might want all schools to be compliant with Nutritional Standards, awareness of whether their own child's school currently abides by them was low. Less than half (41%) said they knew that their child's school was meeting them and a greater proportion (57%) said they did not know.
State maintained schools have been required to follow Nutritional Standards by law since 2008/9 whilst Academies and Free Schools are expected by the Government to comply with them voluntarily. But 92% of academy parents said wanted to see all schools legally required to abide by Nutritional Standards.
Despite the concerns among parents, an even greater number than last year indicated their satisfaction with school meals. A total of 91% this year were very happy or happy with the service, compared to only slightly fewer (89%) last year. Nearly three quarters (72%) put the quality of the food as the most important criteria when buying a school meal. The service delivery is meeting or exceeding their expectations, with 88% agreeing that it was either good or ok.
Despite the economic pressures, school meals are still seen as affordable by parents with 87% stating value for money as a key persuading factor in buying them. In contrast to reports earlier in the year about rising school meal prices, the average spend on a school meal is just £2.00 in 2012.
Parents also cast their votes on some of Jamie Oliver's ideas to improve school meals in his recent School Meals manifesto:
• Secondary students, below 6th form, should be kept on school premises at lunchtimes for their own safety and to prevent visits to local takeaways and shops - 73% of parents agreed.
• Schools should operate staggered lunch breaks to reduce queuing and to allow young people to more easily access food options in school - 96% of parents agreed.
Anne Bull, LACA national chair said: "Over 1,000 more parents took the time and trouble to respond to this year's survey, compared to last year. This increase gives a significant indication of the level of importance parents place on both their children's health and wellbeing and the provision of healthy, nutritious food in their children's schools. There was almost unanimous agreement on many key questions. Parents are clear they do not want to see support for their school catering services being undermined by any lack of financial or policy support. They are sending out a clear message about their future expectations for school food provision. Whilst much has been achieved as a result of the hard work of schools and caterers, additional measures to enhance this progress, would help children and young people achieve their potential, both academically and physically".
By Neil Gerrard
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