Free School Meals for All Infants
As of next September, all infants in primary school will be entitled to free school meals – regardless of how much their parents earn.
At the moment, free school meals are only available to those families who receive certain benefits or earn below £16,190 a year. But according to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, that is all going to change next year, when any child between the ages of five and seven will be able to enjoy school dinners for free.
This is all due to a new policy called Universal Free School Meals (UFSM), that has been made based on the suggestions of Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent in their School Food Plan.
UFSM has been backed by the National Union of Teachers, who are so supportive of the idea they want it available to all primary school children, not just the infants. This works with Nick Clegg’s vision that “every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day.”
Introducing the new policy does not mean that children can’t bring packed lunches in from home, but the plan is to encourage more children to enjoy school dinners, particularly those families who don’t quite fall into the ‘free school meals eligibility’ bracket.
The government has already conducted trials along the same lines as UFSM, where all children in primary schools in Durham and Newham, in East London, were offered free school meals and were observed to see how they were affected.
The results of these trials showed the children drastically improving their performance in the classroom, to the point that they moved ahead of other school children the same age, across the country. This definitely reinforces what Nick Clegg feels: “Giving children a good healthy meal at lunchtime is the best way to make sure they can concentrate and do well in the classroom.”
It was also announced that some college students will be entitled to receive free meals as well, in the same way that sixth form students are already able to.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to announce whether or not they will be offering free school meals to their primary school children, but they will be financially backed if they decide to.
UFSM has the potential to help those children already eligible for free schools meals, rid themselves of the stigma of being “poor” – so not only promoting table manners, dinner table conversation and concentration in the classroom, but also equality in the lunch hall. What more can you ask for from a simple lunchtime meal?