Posted: Tue 2nd Sep 2014

Nick Clegg’s free schools meals program starts today, but not in Wales!

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 2nd, 2014

From today, 2 September 2014, every single child in the first 3 years of school will be eligible for a free school lunch, well in England at least!

This follows an announcement made by the Deputy Prime Minister last year that all state funded schools in England will have a legal duty under the ‘The Children and Families Act 2014’ to offer free school lunches to all pupils in reception year 1 and 2.

The move means that 1.89 million children at 16,500 schools will be able to eat a free meals at lunchtime, its expected the initiative will save families up to £400 per year.

Universal free school meals for primary school pupils was a key recommendation in a review of school food produced independently for the Department for Education by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent in July 2013, the founders of the london restaurant chain Leon.

The Government has spent £22.5million helping schools improve their kitchens and dining facilities.

The program does not extend Wales due to the devolved Government, which is of course responsible for education however, back in September 2013 Mr Clegg promised to give the Welsh Government the funding to offer the same free school meals program in all Welsh schools, although Mr Clegg can’t enforce the school meal programme, it is up to the Welsh Government to do as they see fit with the funding. 

We asked Flintshire County Council if there had been any correspondence with the Welsh Government regarding free school meals.

A Flintshire County Council spokesperson said:

“To date we have not received any communication from Welsh Government regarding free meals for infant pupils but funding is continuing for the Primary Free School Breakfast initiative.”

Interestingly, the Welsh Government republished the Free Breakfasts in Primary Schools  briefing note on 14th of August 2014 clearly in anticipation of any challenges around the launch of free school meals in England.

In Wales the free breakfast initiative has been going for a number of years now, and while welcomed by parents it serves more as a convenience allowing parents to drop to children off at school earlier, it doesn’t offer the same potential cost savings per year as free school lunches, and arguably the same benefits as detailed in the original report triggering the Deputy Prime Minister’s decision to offer free dinners to primary school children in England.

We would like to think that any funding from Mr Clegg has not been diverted to the existing free breakfast budget here in Wales and the program of free lunches is rolled out in Wales at some point soon.

 

 

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