All infant children in state-funded schools in England will, for the first time, be entitled to a free school meal from September 2014 and the government has set out its plans on how it intends to support schools.
The Deputy Prime Minister last year announced £22.5 million to help small schools prepare. This announcement confirms that each small school will receive a minimum of £3,000 funding to extend or improve kitchen facilities, and address transitional costs, in addition to the £2.30 per child per day revenue funding.
This is a part of the £1 billion that government is providing so that every infant across the country sits down to a healthy meal during the day, as well as £150 million to help schools expand their kitchen and dining facilities, where needed.
Other measures include:
- a support service, including a national helpline, run by the Children’s Food Trust, to help and support schools across the country – giving advice on the various issues that may arise including visits and one-to-one help where needed
- support from Magic Breakfast to set up breakfast clubs in schools where children are coming to school hungry
- support from charities to help increase school meal take-up in 2,000 junior and secondary schools that currently have low take-up
Schools Minister David Laws MP said, “With 6 months to go, we want to support and encourage all schools to step up their preparations and these extra measures will support them in doing so.
“Every child deserves the best possible start in life, and we know from pilots that children in schools that offer universal free school meals are academically months ahead of their peers and also more likely to eat vegetables at lunchtime instead of less healthy food like crisps.
“Parents presently spend around £400 for lunches for each child every year and we want to do all we can to help ease the pressure on household budgets – putting money back in families’ pockets.”
The Department for Education is also launching a consultation to simplify school food standards, cutting bureaucracy for schools. The current standards are overcomplicated and can involve schools verifying the amount of nutrients such as zinc and vitamin A that are in meals. The new standards will be simplified and manageable, focusing on tasty healthy meals for all children.
From September, all eligible children will also have access to their free school meal entitlement regardless of whether they attend school, sixth form or college, creating a fair and consistent system across the country.
Headteacher Cal Shaw from Chestnuts Primary School in Haringey said, “The prospect of every infant child in the country getting a free meal at lunchtimes is a great step forward in the battle against childhood obesity and the vital support parents need in these very difficult economic times. This announcement can only be a good thing for the future of our children.”