30/04/2012 13:44 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Family Meal Times Essential For Kids' Social Development, Says School Head

Family meal time PA

The chairman of the Boarding Schools Association says that the decline of family meals has led to the erosion of social skills in children.

Richard Harman claims that youngsters are growing up unable to make conversation with adults, demonstrate good manners or share ideas because of the phasing-out of traditional family dinner times.

He also asserts that the decline in family meals has coincided with the ease of access to high-fat convenience food.

Mr Harman, who is the head of Uppingham School in Rutland, said many boarding schools are now instigating shared meals between teachers and pupils to 'build a sense of togetherness'.

Speaking ahead of a conference tomorrow, Mr Harman said that as a society we have lost the 'beneficial effects of sharing a meal around the table':

"The fact is that eating together has, since the earliest times, been the most formative way of building a sense of togetherness and facilitating conversation across the generations. But in the United States and increasingly over here, a lot of families don't even have a dining table," he said, adding that "a sense of sharing, reaching out to other people and the ability to form and sustain relationships is just not valued as much as it was."

Researchers recently found that kids were healthier and less likely to pile on the pounds in families where all members dined together, whilst other research suggests that one-in-10 adults never eat a meal with their children, with 10 per cent only sharing meal times dinners once a week.

Mr Harman said he insisted on family style eating at his school, deeming the social skills it then leads to as 'vital':

"The decline of family meals has led to the erosion of social skills among youngsters, despite the fact that it is increasingly becoming clear for the future that an ability to get on with people and share ideas will be just as vital in the workplace as the ability to master English and maths," he said.

Do you insist on family meals times, or do the logistics of modern life just not allow it?
Does it seem slightly surreal for a boarding school head to be talking about family meals?