Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales says Government has to do more for free school meals


- Credit: Newham Cll PR

This week, free school meals for pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are extended across England. Many heads have already spoken to the media about the challenges of implementing the scheme with a lack of Government support.

Newham has been serving free school meals to all primary school children since 2009. For the past three years we’ve been funding the programme ourselves.

Newham was one of the free school meal pilot programmes. After the Government scrapped its part of the funding we continued to fund the scheme because we believe it truly supports parents, saving them more than £500 per child. Our independent evaluation of the programme has also shown that those eating a healthy meal make significant progress in attainment.

Our free school meals offer has a 93 per cent take up and has seen more than 24 million meals served in our schools since the start of the programme.

We believe funding free school meals is crucial as it provides vital support for children in the early years, and we want no Newham child to be left behind. Without the support and hard work of head teachers, governors and staff, especially catering staff, delivery of the scheme would have been impossible.

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We’ve had to deal with one of the biggest funding cuts of any council, yet we still invest £6 million every year in the meals. We’ve also worked with our primary schools to invest more than £13 million in upgrading kitchens and dining rooms.

The Government needs to look again and give schools adequate funding to enable them to provide warm and nutritious meals for children. If they don’t, the children they are meant to be helping will be let down, schools will have to bear the brunt of any additional costs and pick up the pieces of a poorly conceived programme. More from Sir Robin Wales

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