Academies are making money out of selling junk food which the government has banned in other schools, it has been claimed.
An independent study published by the School Food Trust (SFT) charity reveals a quarter of academies are selling crisps and savoury snacks while one in six is selling confectionary. One third of the academies described school catering as a "burden", according the SFT.
The academies selling the junk food are making as much as £15,000 a year, while state-maintained schools were given a blanket ban on offering children the food in 2006.
According to Department for Education legislation, academies and free schools do not have to follow the national school meal standards education.
The SFT said its research showed a "mixed picture" for food in academies - something which will no doubt come as an embarrassment to Michael Gove, who has been accused of "forcing" schools to convert to academy status.
Public health nutritionist Dr Michael Nelson, said: "What concerns me here is the inconsistency. On the one hand we still have some academies doing a great job; on the other we have some academies telling us that they are selling confectionary and crisps – which don’t provide any nutritional benefit to children and are ruled out under the national school food standards – and that they are choosing not to follow the standards."
Foods banned under the national school meal standards legislation include:
SFT chairman Rob Rees, said: "If we want schools to be places where children’s minds and bodies are nourished; if we want children to be fuelled to meet their potential in class and to grow into healthier adults, the standards should be the minimum we expect for food in all schools. Otherwise, we’re failing today’s generation and the next on one of the real basics for giving them the best start we can."
A spokesperson for the DfE dodged the claims, saying: "We trust teachers to do what is best for their pupils. Many academies go over and above the minimum requirements and are offering their pupils high quality, nutritional food.
"The School Food Trust's own research on all secondary school food shows that even with food standards in place, many maintained schools – far from being paragons of nutrition – are not meeting all the standards and are still offering cakes, biscuits, confectionery and noncompliant drinks to their pupils. Clearly there is room for improvement in all schools – maintained schools as well as academies."