Every infant to receive a free school meal from September 2014

Released 17/09/2013

The Deputy Prime Minister has also announced that the Government will extend free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges

All pupils at infant schools in England are to receive free school lunches from next September, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

The change - for children in reception, year one and year two - will save parents about £400 a year per child, the BBC reports.

Mr Clegg said: "My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day. Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze. Over the course of a year families spend over £400 lunch money for each child. I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families.

"Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society."

Anne Longfield, chief executive at the 4Children charity, said: "This is a welcome announcement which is likely to be popular with parents and make a real difference for children. Providing a nutritious, hot lunch for all infants in primary school promotes positive eating habits and helps to ensure that children are able to concentrate and perform well in the classroom. It should also get over the stigmatisation that prevented hundreds of thousands of eligible families claiming in the past - a particular problem in some of the poorest, inner city areas of England.

Southwark Council welcomed Mr Clegg's announcement, but said he needs to go further.

Councillor Dora Dixon Fyle, cabinet member for children's services at Southwark Council, said: "We think it is about time the national government caught up with what local government has been doing on this important issue. Southwark is one council that has been doing this for the last two years because we recognised the positive impact a healthy, hot school meal can have. It should be rolled out as national policy but my understanding is it doesn't go far enough. It is great that children will be getting free meals in the early years but we have rolled it out through to year six and we'd like to see that as national policy."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the news but said: "It is essential schools have the capacity, kitchen facilities and staff to provide healthy and nutritious meals to all pupils on a daily basis."

Clegg also announced that the Government will extend free school meals to disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges. Free school meals are currently available only for eligible students at school sixth forms.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The extension of free meals will be good news for some 103,000 students from poorer backgrounds who study in our colleges and the 10,000 students, MPs and members of the public who signed our No Free Lunch? e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website.

"It marks the end of a fundamental funding anomaly that saw students penalised based on their choice of academic institution and is a clear sign that the Government is serious about creating a level playing field between colleges, sixth form colleges and schools. We look forward to seeing the finer details about the funding arrangements in the Autumn Statement."

The Association of Colleges has been running the No Free Lunch? campaign since March 2012. Its aim was to extend the provision of free meals to disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds that study at General Further Education and sixth form colleges.


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