How the Tories made a hash of school breakfasts

When Labour’s shadow minister for terrible live interview, Diane Abbott, made an error on national radio about the cost of police officers, she was laughed at. Not knowing your numbers is now labelled “doing an Abbott”.

Well, we may need a new phrase.

Last week the Conservative party sent a very clear press release stating that £1 billion of extra cash would be put into schools. The money was pushed as being additional. Much of it would come, the press release said, from saving money on free lunches for infants and instead putting it into breakfasts. Lunches cost about £650 million whereas breakfasts cost £60 million. Hence, the costs transfer.

Not knowing your numbers is now labelled “doing an Abbott”

No worries. We promptly worked out this meant each breakfast was worth about 7p. (£60 million, divided by 4.62 million primary pupils in state schools, divided by 190 days of the year.)

The Tories did not like this. They called to complain. They definitely did not say the policy was worth £60 million because it definitely wasn’t going to cost that. They simply didn’t know how much it would cost.

No worries. We promptly wrote a story explaining that they now didn’t have a clue how much the breakfasts would cost. We also asked them what this meant for the £1 billion extra? Might it all need to go on breakfast? Radio silence.

And here is why people get so annoyed about politics being such an integral part of education. To be blunt about it: the promises bandied about by press officers in a panicked, sleep-deprived few weeks in May are setting the course for the next few years in schools, and for those children’s futures.

Imagine having to make all your decisions for the next five years of your life when drunk on New Year’s Eve. That’s basically how we run schools.

Not that I have a better solution for democracy. But I do have one for Theresa May and Diane Abbott. Their calculators are in the post.

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