Colleges welcome free school meals victory

Disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges will be eligible for free school meals, according to the Liberal Democrats.

Eligible students at school sixth forms already benefit from free school meals, but deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has announced that the scheme will be extended disadvantaged 16 to 18 year-olds in FE and sixth form colleges from next September, FE Week reports.

The Association of Colleges launched its ‘No Free Lunch?’ campaign over a year ago and more than 10,000 people signed its e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website. Its chief executive Martin Doel welcomed the announcement: “This is great news and something we have been working towards for some years. [It] addresses an indefensible disparity affecting 16 to 18 year-olds choosing to study at a further education or sixth form college instead of remaining in a school sixth form.”

However, learners at independent training providers will not be eligible and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers criticised this, saying that a fair policy should cover all disadvantaged young people in programmes funded by the Education Funding Agency. Chief Executive Stewart Segal said: “As we had to point out in making representations previously about rules for the former Education Maintenance Allowance, the outreach of independent providers, including many charities, takes them into the most deprived estates and communities in the country and the young people they support should also be beneficiaries.”

Will this move make a difference to your students? Should it be extended to their peers studying at independent providers?

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