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Jamie tastes success in the school kitchens

PUBLISHED: 12:10 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:45 25 August 2010

A CELEBRITY chef s tireless campaign to get dinner ladies serving healthy school dinners has paid off, according to new research.

A CELEBRITY chef's tireless campaign to get dinner ladies serving healthy school dinners has paid off, according to new research.

Jamie Oliver struggled at first to get the government backing for his campaign which began at Kidbrooke School, in Corelli Road, Greenwich.

But now researchers at Oxford and Essex University have found that it has boosted pupils' test results.

Primary pupils in Greenwich, who took part in the Feed Me Better scheme, got better results than those in neighbouring boroughs and also found them less likely to be off school.

The schools replaced junk food and processed dinners high in fat, salt and sugar, with healthy school lunches.

Mr Oliver said: "Even while doing the programme, we could see the benefits to children's health and teachers.

"It's just yet another piece of evidence that we need to move faster in terms of improving take-up of nutritious, tasty home-cooked school meals across the country - training and supporting more dinner ladies, getting the kitchens and dining halls up to scratch, educating kids and parents about how easy a good diet can be."

Oliver's campaign, which ran between 2004-5, led to major changes to nutritional guidelines on school dinners and mass retraining of dinner ladies.

The researchers assessed the impact of the campaign by comparing pupils' scores in the national curriculum tests at the end of primary school between 2002 and 2007 with those of peers in similar boroughs.

They also looked at attendance records for the same period.

In Greenwich, the proportion of children reaching the required standard at the end of primary school rose by 4.5 percentage points in English. For science, the proportion of children doing better than the expected level increased by up to 6 percentage points.

It also found that attendance rates rose 15 per cent in the Greenwich schools.

Staff involved in the scheme said they felt there were improvements from early on.

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