THE survey of pupils at Beath and Lochgelly High Schools over the standard of school meals was a huge let down for the person who brought the matter to the attention of Cowdenbeath Area Committee.

The report tabled at the committee's meeting at the end of January showed that there was only a 16 per cent participation rate in the survey, 304 pupils out of the 1,926 at the two schools.

Executive member of the Committee, Cowdenbeath Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Bailey-Lee Robb, who first brought the issue in front of councillors last summer, found himself dumbfounded that the survey was delayed until going ahead between early December and mid January with 146 of the pupils actually staying at school for lunch.

Education and Children's Services official, Neil Finnie said: "There was a lot of good information that came back from the survey with those who eat off site indicating that their main reason for doing so was the quality of food served, who purchased 'grab and go' options.

"For those did stay at school for meals the feeling was that the quality was satisfactory, most young people eat almost all of what is served and they are of the view that there is a good selection.

"Most young people did say that they would prefer more' grab and go' options, but they also said that they felt the current offering provided good value for money.

"The canteen environment was seen by most of them to be a comfortable one for socialising and speed of service, although the main improvement comments were around the quality of food and price."

Mr Finnie added that both schools had responded positively to the request to set up a core group including young people representatives from their schools to look at the school meals issue." The core group will meet this month.

Bailey-Lee Robb said that the issue was first raised and the decision made to ask for a survey back in May last year and he added: "This has taken far too long to get organised and then has been done over just a few weeks and the 16 per cent turn out is low, and I don't think through this the quality aspect of school meals at either school has been properly addressed."

He added: "I think the core group is a good idea and hopefully it will bring forward some good feedback."

Councillor Alex Campbell agreed with the MSYP: "16 per cent is a low turn out but the survey only lasted for a short time before and after Christmas so that must have had an impact."

Councillor Mary Lockhart added: "The findings say that 52 per cent of pupils eat out of school because the quality of the food is not good enough so that has to be of concern."

But Councillor Darren Watt contended: "I just wonder how this survey was targeted and how people were attracted to take part."

Committee convener, Councillor Linda Erskine agreed that it had taken too long to get to this stage of the process and she said: "This has been a long time in coming but once the core group is established it could make a big difference.

"We really need to take the pupils with us in trying to up the standards of school meals at Beath and Lochgelly Highs and hopefully that can happen."

Mr Finnie said that the Area Committee would get an update from the core group activities soon.