Panic Over: PM says Free School Meals Won’t be Cut
Over the past couple of week, you might have heard something about free school meals and how the government plans to cut them in the next spending review, in November.
This would mean that many families would struggle to make sure their children had a substantial and nutritious meal at lunchtime when they are at school. Schools also wouldn’t be able to ensure that the children in their care had at least one hot meal a day.
So, of course, when the news started to spread that free school meals would be no more, panic set it. Parents all over the UK starting condemning Prime Minister David Cameron for breaking his word, and more than 40 health professionals signs a letter that was published in a popular Sunday newspaper.
The letter explained that a third of all children leaving primary school are overweight or obese, so making sure a nutritionally balanced lunch at school has never been so important.
“A free school meals policy could end up paying for itself many times over and reduce the spirally costs to the NHS,” the authors of the letter pointed out.
All of this speculation began when Chancellor George Osborne demanded cuts of 25% to 40% a couple of months ago, which would be taken from unprotected budgets.
With the free school meals budget costing in the region of £600 million a year, the public made the logical leap and assumed that school lunches would be targeted for these cuts.
But now Mr Cameron has dismissed any speculation that free school meals will be adversely affected in the spending review, and said that he is committed to free school meals for all infants in England.
According to an official spokesperson, the PM pointed out that free school meals were in the manifesto – something that would not change. This manifesto reads: “We will support families by providing free school meals to all infants.”
The spokesperson also claims the Prime Minister is very proud of what the government has achieved so far in regards to free school meals.
“We believe that every child, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunities,” the spokesperson said. “No child should be hindered because they’re not eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime.”
They also explained that by providing significant financial support to schools across the country, schoolchildren are eating better food that “sows the seeds for healthy living for life”.
Dave Prentis is the General Secretary for Unison, which is one of the UK’s largest trade unions. He said that the recent speculation of the future of free school meals has caused many struggling parents much anxiety, worrying that the one hot meal their children were guaranteed each day would be taken away from them.
“But thankfully,” he concluded, “the government has seen sense, responded to the pressure put on them, and now free school meals will live to see another day.”
When the free school meals for all infants was initially announced, it was clear to be a huge and important step for families all over England. At the time, then-Deputy PM Nick Clegg said: “Giving children a good healthy meal at lunchtime is the best way to make sure they can concentrate and do well in the classroom.”
The message remains unchanged…
And long may it continue.