Nearly 2,500 academies and free schools are yet to formally commit to healthy school meal standards, according to the new figures compiled by the Local Government Association.
The loophole means that these schools can dodge restrictions on fried and pastry-based foods, as well as sugary drinks, said the LGA, and at the same time receive funding for infant free school meals.
The LGA said the findings are “deeply worrying” given the schools have had more than a year to sign up.
All new academies and free schools established from June 2014 are required to adhere to the school food standards. However, academies established between September 2010 and June 2014 are not contractually required to comply.
In January last year, the government therefore wrote to the 3,896 academies and free schools set up during that period and asked them to voluntarily sign up. However, only about a third (1,420) have done so.
The LGA said the government should use the Childhood Obesity Strategy to bring the older academies into line with the rest of the sector.