We have made sure that from this week every child in infant school in England will get free school meals, saving families over £400 a year per child. Here in Calderdale 7,968 pupils aged 5-7 will benefit from this.
This is one of the most important changes in our education system for a generation. A healthy meal at lunchtime for all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will raise school standards and help families save money. It would never have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Government, fighting to cut the cost of living.
School lunches for all infants will save parents money, improve children’s education, and make sure more children eat a healthy and nutritious meal at least once a day. Universal free school meals have been shown to work in the pilot schemes run by the Department for Education and Department of Health in 2009. Schools have had longer to prepare for the introduction of universal free school meals this September than schools in those pilot areas had in 2009.
Schools are receiving a huge amount of support to provide free school meals. We are providing £150m to improve kitchens and dining facilities, as well as an additional £22.5m specifically to help smaller schools.
The Scottish government will receive funding under the Barnett formula and have indicated they will also provide free school meals for infants from January 2015.
Schools Minister, David Laws said:
“The evidence is clear. Providing children with nutritious and delicious meals gives them the fuel they need to excel both inside and outside the classroom, while making them more likely to opt for fruit and vegetables at lunchtime rather than junk food such as crisps.”
Marking the launch, Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“The extension of free school meals to all infants in the country is a positive step in the fight against child poverty. Our analysis shows that about 160,000 more children in poverty will be getting this vital support as a result of this historic move. It shows that the Government recognises the hardship that thousands of families are facing.”