Pupils who eat breakfast are up to twice as likely to do well at school as those who do not, according to the biggest study of its kind.
Researchers found a “significant link” between eating breakfast and performing above average on teacher assessment scores. There was also a strong link between eating a healthy breakfast – such as cereal, bread, dairy or fruit – and doing well at school.
There was no such link for the one in five pupils who ate junk for breakfast, such as crisps or sweets.
The study on around 5,000 pupils from more than 100 primary schools was led by a team at Cardiff University.
It involved asking pupils aged nine to 11 what they ate for breakfast and during the rest of the day, and following their educational progress six to 18 months later.
The team found that a good breakfast was strongly linked to performing above average on Key Stage 2 teacher assessments, while there was also a link for those pupils who carried on eating fruit and veg at other times of day.
Dr Graham Moore, who worked on the study, said: “We analysed links between whether young people were eating breakfast and the quality of that breakfast.
“There’s a significant association between eating breakfast and doing well, but there is also a link between a healthy breakfast and doing well.
“The odds of achieving an above average teacher assessment score were up to twice as high for those pupils who ate breakfast. The odds of scoring above average was between 50 per cent and 100 per cent higher if any breakfast was eaten.” Dr Moore said it did not matter whether pupils ate breakfast at home or during a breakfast club at school.
“The main thing is to make sure they have a breakfast,” he said.
Hannah Littlecott, lead author of the study, said: “While breakfast consumption has been consistently associated with general health, evidence regarding links to concrete educational outcomes has until now been unclear.
“This study therefore offers the strongest evidence yet of links between aspects of what pupils eat and how well they do at school, which has significant implications for education and public health policy – pertinent in light of rumours that free school meals may be scrapped following George Osborne’s November spending review.”