GMB Welcome New Money To Install School Kitchens But It May Not Be Enough As A Quarter Do Not Have Adequate Catering And Dining Facilities
It is unclear how £ 150m will be allocated and if, as it seems, half is coming from school maintenance budgets then it may not be such a boost after all says GMB.
GMB, the union for school dinner staff, responded to announcement of £150m for school kitchens.
Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said "Around a quarter of schools do not have adequate catering or dining facilities to provide a daily meal so any steps to build or upgrade school kitchens is welcome.
However it is unclear how this limited sum will be allocated and if, as it seems, half is coming from school maintenance budgets then it may not be such a boost after all."
Contact Brian Strutton 07860 606 137 or GMB press office 07974 252 823 or 07921 289880
Notes to editors
£150m boost for school kitchens – report on Press Association for Wednesday December 4
Schools are to be handed millions of pounds to set up new kitchens and dining rooms as part of the Government's plan to offer every five to seven-year-old a free school dinner, it has been announced.
In total, around £150 million of public money is to be made available to help infant schools in England improve their dining facilities, the government said.
It comes just months after Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg announced proposals for universal free meals for infant school children.
The scheme, due to be introduced in September next year, has been widely welcomed, although some headteachers and charities have previously warned that schools would need financial help to build the facilities needed to offer the meals.
New funding to allow schools to build kitchens and expand dining rooms will be included in tomorrow's Autumn Statement. The money is on top of £450m set aside in 2014/15 and £635m in 2015/16 to fund the free lunches.
Under the Government's plans every child in an English infant school will be eligible for a free school dinner.
Mr Clegg, who made the scheme the key announcement of the Lib Dem's conference in September, has said that the initative is aimed at helping families who are feeling the pinch from the rising cost of living but will also have education and health benefits.
It is expected to save parents around £437 per year, per child.
Mr Clegg said today: ""Early on I made it very clear that universal free school meals would be my personal priority in this Autumn Statement and I'm proud that we are now delivering it. From the start of the next school year, every single infant school pupil will be able to sit to down to a free school lunch.
"Today, I can announce that we're providing more than £1 billion to ensure children get a healthy meal in the middle of the day. We're also making sure that schools are not left out of pocket by putting £150m on the table to fund new kitchen and dining facilities where they are needed."
Mr Clegg said the Government was "making the sums add up" to fund the schools meal plan by finding money from a number of sources, including unspent maintenance funds.
During a visit to Walnut Tree Walk Primary School in Lambeth, where he sat with pupils to eat a school lunch of chicken and rice followed by crumble with custard, he said: "Of course we need to fund it and that's why I'm delighted that in the Autumn Statement we will be confirming that we are putting forward £1 billion worth of money over the next two years to make sure that it starts in September of next year and it is properly delivered across the country, plus £150 million that we are making available to schools where they don't have kitchens which are big enough or properly equipped enough to provide those school meals.
"So, we are fully funding this so it will be fully delivered across the country.
"The Chancellor will set out the details tomorrow but we are making the sums add up by closing the loopholes in our tax system, we are making extra efficiency savings in Whitehall, we are putting new money, for instance, forward to help schools expand their kitchens or buy new equipment, and part of that money also comes from maintenance funds that the Department for Education haven't managed to spend elsewhere."
He added: "For a long time I've been wanting to deliver free healthy lunches to all children in infant school because, not only does it save money for the families having to pay for those lunches at the moment - actually doing that every year costs a family about £400 - it's also, all the evidence says, a great, great way of actually helping children concentrate in the afternoon after the lunchtime.
"It bring children together from different backgrounds so it helps close the attainment gap so it's good for education, it's good for giving children, particularly from poorer backgrounds, a real boost and it's good, of course, to save money for families as well."
The £150 million is to be made up of £70 million in new funding from the Treasury and £80 million taken from unspent Department for Education maintenance budgets.
A survey of local authorities conducted by the Children's Food Trust, published last year, found that around a quarter of primary schools did not have their own full food production kitchen. This meant they offered no food service, offered cold food only, or were relying on food being transported in from elsewhere to be reheated.
A Children's Food Trust spokesman said: "If we want more children eating in our canteens, schools have got to have the kitchens, equipment, dining room space and systems they need serve them well. With the right support some schools are already in a good position to get ready to serve more meals next September, but for others, capital funding for new facilities or refurbishment is going to be absolutely essential.
"We look forward to seeing more detail of how this funding will be allocated - making sure it gets to the schools that most need it, and that it's used in the most effective way to make sure every child taking up these free school meals gets a great experience."
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "It's funding for the equipment which is the biggest concern. Far fewer schools have kitchens than anybody thought.
"Free school meals are a good idea, but we need money to build the facilities that will be needed to provide them."
He added: "Building the facilities to deliver this policy is essential. There's going to be a lot more children eating meals and we don't want to have long lunchtimes with children eating in shifts.
"This sum of money seems like it will go some way to delivering the policy. It will be challenging to get it done in the time period, but it's a good contribution."