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Durham University

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Publication details for Professor Peter Atkins

Atkins, P.J. (2005). The Milk in Schools Scheme, 1934-45: 'nationalization' and resistance. History of Education 34(1): 1-21.

Author(s) from Durham


In October 1934 the National Government took over what had previously been a commercial initiative to encourage milk‐drinking in schools. By the outbreak of war the Milk in Schools Scheme had reached 87 per cent of elementary schools in England and Wales and 56 per cent of pupils were drinking one‐third of a pint daily. This paper investigates the motivations behind this scheme and the problems associated with its implementation. There was resistance from within government and a number of objections were raised around the country, particularly to the strategy of the Board of Education. The conclusions are, first, that the economic necessity of providing a market for liquid milk was more important in the mind of policy‐makers than nutritional supplements for undernourished children and, second, that the evolution of the policy itself was highly contingent upon the network of power and influence within which it operated. In 1933 it would have been difficult to predict with any degree of certainty how a Milk in Schools Scheme would have operated, but in time it was to become one of the government’s most robust and universally supported food policies.