A loophole that enables nearly 2,500 academies and free schools avoid signing up to healthy school meal standards must be closed in a forthcoming child obesity strategy, town hall leaders say.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has calculated there are more than one million children attending academies and free schools that have not signed up to voluntary rules designed to improve school meals.
This is despite those schools being asked by Government to sign up voluntarily more than a year ago when the rules were brought in.
Council maintained schools, new academies, and academies that opened between 2008 and 2010 are required to ensure children get at least one portion of vegetables or salad each day as part of their school lunch.
These schools are also restricted when it comes to providing fried or pastry-based food or sugary drinks.
Having to follow these rules was, however, optional for the 3,896 academies and free schools which opened between 2010 and 2014 because this prevented the need for introducing ‘cumbersome’ legislation.
There are still though, according to the LGA, 2,476 that have yet to sign up to the rules.
The LGA says the Government should use its childhood obesity strategy, expected in the summer, to close this loophole in the legislation to ensure that all academies and free schools have to formally commit to the standards followed by all other schools.
LGA Community Wellbeing spokeswoman, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: ‘It is deeply worrying that hundreds of academies and free schools are yet to commit to providing healthy school meals to children, more than a year since they were first asked to sign up to new school food standards by government.
‘It’s not right that we have rules for some but not all.’
She continued: ‘The forthcoming childhood obesity strategy is a great opportunity for the Government to close this loophole in legislation, which will make all academies follow standards that demonstrate a nutritional safety net to parents, who can be assured that their children are eating healthy food at school, rather than meals that could be laden in high amounts of fat, salt or sugar.’