Free school meals for all children in infant classes


From September 2014, the government will fund schools in England to provide children in infant classes with a hot, nutritious meal at lunch time every school day. NGA welcomes this investment in improving both young pupils’ welfare and attainment at a extremely formative period of their school life.
Universal free school meals for primary school pupils were a key recommendation in a recent review of school food produced for the Department for Education - The School Food Plan. 
Mr Clegg said “My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their class mates every day. Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. Over the course of a year families spend over £400 lunch money for each child. I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families. We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits. Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society.”
At the same time it was announced that disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges will also be eligible for free school meals from September 2014. Free school meals are currently available only for eligible students at school sixth forms.
The estimated cost for these two measures is £600 million. Full details about funding will be announced in the Autumn Statement 2013.
Although many commentators welcomed the idea in principle, concern was expressed that at time of austerity the £600m could be used on other more cost-effective ways to raise attainment. The evidence of the pilots (see newsletter 31.08.12) was that universal free school meals did raise attainment. Of course, as well as responsibility for standards governors also have a duty to promote pupils’ well-being and on both those grounds provision of a hot meal to these pupils should be welcomed.
The NGA will keep members informed as more information about how the scheme will be implemented becomes available.
BBC article – All infants in England to get free school lunches