UK & World News

  • 31 August 2014, 10:04

Schools Struggling With Free Hot Meals Plan

Some primary schools will not be ready to give children free hot meals when term starts this week, it has been warned.

All state educated infants, year one and year two pupils in England are entitled to free school dinners from September under plans announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last year.

A total of £2.30 is being allocated per pupil per day to pay for the scheme, but some councils and schools say they have not had the time or money to create the new kitchens and dining rooms that are needed.

St John Fisher Catholic Primary School in Middlesex will serve meals in the classrooms and use outside caterers until its new kitchen is completed next year.

The school's headteacher, Anne Lyons, told Sky News she supports the plans to give children free food but added: "We've had virtually no funding to implement this, other than the £2.30, which is why we don't have a kitchen.

"We've had to already buy our own furniture, tables and chairs, and so that is a strain on the budget."

Mr Clegg says the changes will ensure all children get a nutritious meal and will save parents and taxpayers money.

However, a survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) published in August found 47% of councils questioned said they had not received enough money from the Department of Education to pay for the changes.

The LGA claimed on average those that were short would need to find around £488,000 to ensure all of the pupils got meals, which could mean taking money from other budgets.

In a statement, a Department for Education spokesman said 239 schools, around 1.5%, would not be ready to serve hot meals at the beginning of term, adding: "We have provided significant financial support to schools to help them deliver the policy, including over £1bn over the next two years to pay for the costs of providing the meals.

"Schools and local authorities have also received £150m of additional capital to help upgrade facilities, and we have allocated an extra £22.5m specifically to help small schools."

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