School food and the no leaving rule

Improving school food is a major concern in the UK, and has been for quite some time (see this old post about some more background info). But a recent article on the BBC website really has me scratching my head: Apparently, Ed Balls, the School Secretary is considering backing schools who try to enforce a “no leaving at lunchtime” rule for pupils. At a first glance that may seem a good idea, after all if a child can not leave the school ground surely there is little chance of said child buying junk food from local take aways.

But actually, is that what is likely to happen? After all teenagers are more likely than any other group to show reactance – and thus making the junk food even more important and desirable than it already is. But that is not the only quirk in the thinking of Ed Balls. As the article concludes it is actually neither the quality nor the cost of the school food that makes pupils leave the school and eat at local shops and take aways, it is the lack of comfort and long waiting times that are important factors which influence pupils to go to the local shops. Granted, closing the gates may stop children leaving at lunch time, but I do wonder, if the main driving forces for leaving are so clear (and easily changed), then why risk reactance and withit glorification of the junk food outlets? Would it not be better to tackle the question from a customer (aka marketing) perspective, and provide faster service and more comfortable sourroundings?

P.S: the image is of a typical school canteen, this one is in Darlington. Would you prefer such surroundings over a Starbucks?

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