31 May 2002

MID-MORNING DRINK FOR HEALTHY MINDS AND BODIES

DRINKING milk improves childrens health and behaviour, according to head-teachers running free and subsidised schemes in their schools.

"We wanted to provide a drink that would provide healthy minds and healthy bodies and we felt that milk was the answer," says Sally Staley, head-teacher at Alcester Infant School, Warwickshire. "Were helping to develop the child as a whole."

Alcester began offering the kids milk last year, having sent a questionnaire home to mums and dads. "There was a tremendous response. About 75% of the parents were behind it."

Mrs Staley has noticed pupils concentration has improved as a result of getting the drink mid-morning and this goes hand-in-hand with the health benefits. "Id encourage other schools to do it."

Meanwhile at Joiner Square Primary School, Stoke-on-Trent, mid-morning milk has been available for more than three years – and now over half the pupils take advantage of it.

The initiative will help combat tooth decay by providing calcium, says head-teacher at the Staffordshire school, Hilary Pickin.

&#42 Better concentration

She, too, has noticed improvements in concentration. "If the children are hungry, theyll be niggly. You can sense the difference – they concentrate better."

Demand has "snowballed" after the initial take-up at Joiner Square. "The children have seen one another having the milk and the pleasure they get from it – and theyve badgered their parents to let them have it."

Participation is voluntary, its flexible and the benefits have been great. "Its money well spent by the parents," says Mrs Pickin.

WHAT WILL IT COST?

For children under five,

the Nursery Milk Scheme enables them to receive 189ml of milk free.

Every primary school child aged from five to 11 is eligible for up to 250ml of EU-subsidised milk at school each day (The LEA receives the subsidy). The contribution that parents make towards the milk varies from area to area but on average is between 12p and 14p a day.

Thats about £7/term.

Source: The Dairy Council

HOW TO CONVINCE DOUBTERS

Q Hasnt milk got a high fat content?

A No. There is far less fat in milk than people think. Whole milk contains only 4% fat and semi-skimmed milk contains 1.7% fat. In fact, a glass of milk contains less fat than popular playground snacks such as a packet of crisps or a regular-sized chocolate bar.

Q We offer fresh fruit and water anyway – arent we doing enough for the childrens welfare?

A Why not do a little more? Milk provides a wide range of essential nutrients and is one of the best natural sources of calcium. During childhood, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build strong bones and help protect against brittle bones later in life. Milk at break-time can help with this by providing about 50% of a childs daily calcium requirement. Remember, too, that tooth decay causes pain and anxiety and dentists say that water and milk are the only safe drinks for teeth between meals.

Q Were really busy – we wont have time to do this.

ASchools that provide milk say how simple and straightforward it is to do and companies such as Cool Milk will run the scheme. for you As Hilary Pickin, head-teacher of a Staffs school, says: "Theres very little work involved for the teachers or anyone else. The system runs so smoothly. Dont be put off by thinking its going to be a lot of hard work and administration – it isnt."

USEFUL CONTACTS

&#8226 The Dairy Council 020 7499 7822 www.milk.co.uk

&#8226 Dairy Crest 01252 366946

&#8226 School Milk 01252 875474 www.schoolmilk.co.uk

&#8226 Cool Milk 0800 389 7157 (a company that can administer the scheme for Local Education Authorities) www.coolmilk.com

&#8226 Rural Payments Agency (administers the EU subsidy) 0118 968 7560

&#8226 Your local dairy company