Wrong priorities on free school meals – Nick
North Devon MP MP Nick Harvey has challenged the Government on the need to ensure Free School Meals go to all children living in poverty.
Questioning Education Secretary Michael Gove, Nick queried the prioritisation of extending FSM to all infants, rather than extending them to all children living within the Government’s own definition of poverty.
There are currently 1.2million children living below the poverty line who do not receive Free School Meals. In North Devon, 47% of poor families do not qualify. As a consequence, their schools miss out on vital Pupil Premium funding, targeted at disadvantaged children to close the attainment gap.
Mr Gove responded by saying he disagreed with Nick and emphasising that the new policy was the right thing to do. The policy of giving Free School Meals to all infants, which will cost £600million, was announced in September this year. 200,000 children living in poverty who were previously ineligible for FSM will now receive it under the new measure.
Nick Harvey said: “Many children from low income families are missing out on more than just a hot meal each day – Pupil Premium payments follow children receiving FSM, and I have heard time and time again from local parents that the eligibility criteria unfairly excludes them.
“Despite 1.2million children living within the Government’s own definition of child poverty failing to receive Free School Meals, £600million will now be spent each year giving the meals to all infants – 1.3million of whose parents can afford to pay for them. Sorting out the huge and fundamental flaw in Pupil Premium distribution should have been the top priority. Precious cash that could have plugged this gap is now going elsewhere.
“It’s disappointing that the Education Secretary didn’t answer my question – but this is an issue affecting children across the country that will simply not go away, and I will continue to press for a solution.”
(from a press release)