Schools are resorting to bussing in meals from other schools or restricting children’s choice of food in their struggle to provide lunch for young pupils.
The Lib Dem leader promised free hot, healthy school lunches for pupils in reception, year one and year two last September. “Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze…I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families,” Nick Clegg said. “We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits.”
This September the Lib Dems described the initiative as a ‘massive success’, but schools across the country have been plagued with problems including:
- canteen renovations over-running and vital equipment failing to turn up
- schools being forced to seat children for lunch in classrooms, music rooms or portakabins
- children being offered cold sandwiches, or hot food on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
Critics have claimed that councils and schools have been forced to raid other budgets to fund the £1 billion initiative and questioned the health benefits Mr. Clegg promised, the Mail reports. Many headteachers have argued that the money could be better spent elsewhere.
TV chef Jamie Oliver started the school dinners campaign to convince the government that schools should provide more nourishing food to pupils. The Telegraph reports that he’s modest about his influence on the new free hot lunch scheme. “I can’t take any credit for where we’ve got to now, [but] I hope that I was a tiny seed of inspiration.”
If the Lib Dems are in government after the next election, free school meals will be offered to pupils up to the age of 11, according to schools minister David Laws.
If you work in an infant school how has the introduction of hot school meals gone? Do you think the £1 billion the scheme is costing is money well spent?