Free school meals ‘on track’

PUBLISHED: 11:00 23 June 2014

Mead vale Primary School children with headteacher Beverley Hartland-Smith.

Mead vale Primary School children with headteacher Beverley Hartland-Smith.

Archant

EVERYTHING is ‘on track’ to enable primary schools to provide free hot meals by September, according to a North Somerset councillor.

New laws entitling infant-age pupils - those in reception, or years one and two - to free dinners will be introduced for the new academic year.

North Somerset Council has calculated an additional 4,000 meals per day will be required, increasing production from just over 5,000 to just under 9,000 meals per day.

Labour councillor Catherine Gibbons said: “The council is on track to complete the works necessary to enable all schools to deliver these meals by September and that a high uptake is expected.”

Following a successful bid to the Government in 2009, the authority’s contracts team has been using the grant cash to provide new facilities and improve existing kitchens.

Mead Vale Primary School, in Kestrel Drive, is one of the schools to benefit from this money.

Headteacher Beverley Hartland-Smith said: “We will have new cookers fitted which we are pleased about. We had to make adjustments to the school day and arrange a first and second sitting but we have not had any problems with funding.”

However, one headteacher has questioned whether a mid-morning snack might have been a more sensible option – plugging the gap between an evening meal and lunch for youngsters who may not eat breakfast.

Joanne Green, headteacher of Walliscote Primary School in Weston, said the new regulation has already meant changes being made to the opportunities they provide.

She said: “We won’t get any additional funding because we have already got a kitchen.

“I feel it is something we have to do, there is no choice. I do think it’s good that children are having a hot meal during the day.

“Part of me wonders whether it would have been better if children would have had fruit and milk mid-morning. A lot of children often go without breakfast and have to wait until lunchtime, which is a long time and I wonder whether that may have been a better option, and it would have been easier to put in place.

“We are not going to be able to put a lunchtime club in the hall.

“It cuts down some of the opportunities we have provided so far, but my staff are flexible enough it will happen.”

Cllr Gibbons added: “I welcome any measure that improves the lives of children and extends equality of opportunity, though I wish the political will was there to extend free school meals to all primary school children - so as to remove the need to claim as many parents feel a sense shame in doing so.”

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