A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



The investigation was confined to urban areas. Nine schools were visited in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Buckhaven, Glasgow, Peebles and Perth. One school in Dundee was exceptional, insofar as it was compulsory for the pupils to take their dinners at school.

The average number of essays received from each school was 85, and the inquiry is based on 780 essays written by children of the following age and sex:-

Table 1
Boys Girls Sex Unknowns * Total
% % % %
Up to 10 22 7 28 8 - - 50 6
11-12 104 34 122 35 11 9 237 30
13-14 112 36 101 29 41 33 254 33
15 and over 165 21 51 15 6 5 122 16
Age unknown * 7 2 42 12 68 54 117 15
Total 310 100 344 100 126 100 780 100
% of sex distribution 40% 44% 16% 100%

* These children forgot to mention their age or sex.

The higher percentage of boys in the 13-14 and over-15 age groups is due to the inclusion of the school in Dundee where meals were compulsory.

The investigation was planned in order to get the opinion of the children who take school meals as well as those who do not take them. 41% of the essays were written by the former, and 49% by the latter. In 10% of the essays the child forgot to say whether or not it took part in the scheme.

The Children were mainly working-class, but came from different backgrounds ranging from slum clearance areas to those inhabited by the skilled artisan.

The schools differed in their history of providing meals. In some schools meals had been provided for the poorer children for a certain time, with the result that a social stigma was attached to them ; in others meals had only recently been started in accordance with the Government’s wartime policy of encouraging communal feeding. In some towns, the food was distributed from a cooking centre to the schools. In others the food was cooked on the premises. In some schools the dining-rooms were cheerful and homely; in others there was more the atmosphere of mass feeding.

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