North Devon MP brings experts together for free school meals roundtable
North Devon MP Nick Harvey convened a roundtable meeting of experts to discuss Free School Meals (FSM), following the Government’s announcement last September to expand FSM to all infants.
Nick organised the event – hosted jointly with the Children’s Society – after he expressed concerns about the £1bn policy, which gives free school meals to all children under 7 regardless of family income. The MP has argued that using the money in this way is the wrong priority when there are currently 700,000 children of all ages living in poverty who are ineligible for a free lunch.
MPs heard from representatives from the National Association of Head Teachers, who outlined some of the difficulties – ie lack of kitchens – that stood in the way to implementing the policy successfully. Figures from the Schools Food Plan and the Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission highlighted the policy’s potential for improving children’s attainment in school.
Nick said: “It was extremely helpful to bring together a number of experts in education and nutrition today in Parliament to discuss this issue. Problems with free school meals were first brought to my attention by working mothers in North Devon missing out on their children’s lunches despite living on desperately low salaries, just because they fell slightly above the income threshold.
“No one would argue that giving all infants a lunch is a bad thing, but we have to ensure that this money is being spent in the most effective way possible. With many schools not having the kitchen or dining room capacity to accommodate for all their infants, and fears that schools’ Pupil Premium allocations for the most disadvantaged kids will be affected, there is still some way to go for the Government to ensure it is smooth sailing from here on.
“All today’s participants were agreed that with the advent of Universal Credit we now have the chance to look again at widening access to school food to ensure that no child in poverty misses out. I look forward to seeing further details of the Government’s plans in this area.”
(from a press release)
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