Universal free meals concern in deprived schools

Universal free meals concern in deprived schools

The government’s universal free school meals promise detailing schools’ obligation to provide free meals to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2 is causing concern regarding budgeting and lack of facilities in deprived schools.

Lancashire’s representative for the National Association of Head Teachers, Les Turner said that many local members were “now worried their grants [would] plummet.”

Preston headteacher Peter Cunningham told the Lancashire Telegraph: “If universal free school meals mean parents no longer have to register that seems to be there will be an inevitable effect on how the pupil premium is given to schools which will see schools get less funding.”

The Times has reported figures showing “one in five schools will not be able to provide hot meals to pupils” due to “lack of kitchen facilities”.

Further figures revealed by the Mail in a freedom of information request show that some schools have to transport-in hot food, whilst many are attempting urgent upgrades to their facilities to meet the deadline.

From 150 education authorities contacted for the Mail’s report, seventy-one responded, revealing:

  • 1,350 out of 7,083 primaries plan to fulfil need by transporting in hot food
  • 3,051 out of 6,144 school still need improvement to their kitchen facilities
  • 8,100 schools are carrying out ‘urgent upgrades’

A Department for Education spokesperson told the Mail when questioned on the legitimacy of the universal free school meals policy: “We are providing £150 million to improve kitchens and dining facilities, and an additional £22.5 million to help smaller schools to provide these meals and a free support service staffed by food experts for schools […] If hot meals cannot be provided schools would be expected to work towards offering them ‘as soon as possible’.”