GMB School Meals Members And Parents Shocked At Reports That Government Are To Scrap Free School Meals For Children Aged Four To Seven
You can't put a value on children's health and educational well- being so MPs must put pressure on Osborne to maintain universal free school meals for infants says GMB.
GMB, the union for school support staff, commented on press reports that free school meals for schoolchildren aged 4 to 7 are 'set to be scrapped' under Osborne's spending review. See notes to editors for copy of report in the Independent on Sunday dated 20th September 2015.
Avril Chambers, GMB National Officer for school support staff, said "Parents and GMB members working in school kitchens and dining rooms will be shocked at this news that that the government intends to scrap universal free school meals for infants.
They tell us that even for families that can afford to do better, the quality and nutritional value of packed lunches are atrocious with many children having only chocolate and crisps in their lunch box if they're lucky. Universal free school meals is designed to put an end to this.
You can't put a value on children's health and educational well- being. Furthermore, as this was a flagship policy of the last government schools have spent millions upgrading their kitchens to cope - what a waste of public money.
MPs must put pressure on Osborne to maintain universal free school meals for pupils aged four to seven."
Contact: Avril Chambers 07974 251 766 or Justin Bowden 07710 631 351 or Rehana Azam 07841 181656 or GMB press office 07921 289880.
Notes to editors
Copy of report in Independent on Sunday
Free school meals for infants 'set to be scrapped' under Osborne's spending review
Jamie Oliver has called the possible decision a 'disaster'
Olivia Blair Sunday 20 September 2015
Free meals for infant school pupils are likely to be scrapped in George Osborne’s November spending review, it has been reported.
According to Sky News, the government is considering the cut despite pledging to continue the policy in the 2015 Conservative manifesto.
Free hot school meals for all schoolchildren between four and seven, regardless of their parent’s income, were introduced by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2014. It was estimated that it would cut costs to parents by £400 per year, per child.
Government departments were ordered by the Chancellor to cut their budgets by up to 40 per cent in July, under his spending review due in November.
The Department for Education has the majority of its spending budget protected.
However, £14 billion of spending within early years education is subject to cuts and the Universal Infant Free School Meals programme (UIFSM), which is estimated to cost between £600m and £800m per year, falls under this category.
Healthy eating campaigner, Jamie Oliver called the possible decision a “disaster”, saying the policy had been a “major step forward for children’s health and academic performance” as homemade packed lunches often got “nowhere near the nutritional standards set for school meals".
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron said: “All the evidence suggests that children who have a school meal every day are two months further on in their studies than those that don’t. [To take away the policy] is damaging to children, it’s an insult to our schools.”
The initiative previously faced criticism over the costs and preparations of fitting some schools with kitchens.
According to Sky News, the government refused to rule out cutting the scheme, but a spokesperson said: “We believe that every child, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunities.
“That is at the heart of what we are doing with school food – no child should be hindered because they are not eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime.”