Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Taunton Deane criticises bungled roll out of universal free school meals for infants

Neil Guild
“This is a missed opportunity for children caused by poor planning by the government.” Taunton PPC Neil Guild

Neil Guild, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane, has criticised the government’s roll out of its free school meal policy as it becomes apparent that in September most schools across Taunton Deane will not be offering hot meals to all entitled children in reception and years 1 and 2.

“It is of real concern that this policy could ever have seen the light of day with such little thought to its actual implementation. Very few primary schools in Somerset retain kitchens or the space to accommodate a large dining area yet no one at the Department for Education appears to have considered this – certainly not Liberal Democrat Education Minister David Laws, who represents the Somerset constituency of Yeovil. While £2.30 will be provided per pupil per day towards the cost of the food very little additional funding was provided to update or build new facilities.

 ‘Fault lies with Coalition government’

“As a parent of young children attending Bishop Henderson School in Taunton I share the disappointment of many parents that next year our children will not be offered hot meals. But I do not blame the head teachers who have been left in the impossible situation of struggling to deliver free schools meals with insufficient funding and while not affecting the existing education of our children. The fault for this lies instead with the Lib Dem and Tory coalition government.

“Bishop Henderson School estimates they will need an additional £16,000 to the £8,750 already provided by the government in order to provide hot meals to all entitled children. Confronted with this impossible funding gap the school has instead, like many others, made the difficult decision to provide sandwiches until appropriate funding can be found to deliver high quality hot meals.

“This is a missed opportunity for children caused by poor planning by the government. The evidence from where universal free school meals have been trialled is that overall attainment improved for all children across all backgrounds, and that the results of those children previously eligible for free school meals improved the most. Put simply children who are well fed are better able to concentrate and more likely to succeed.

 ‘Labour run councils can make a difference’

“Labour run councils in Islington, Newham and Southwark are already making a difference by providing free school meals for all children in primary education and showing that this approach can deliver real educational improvement for all children.

“I will be campaigning in Taunton to correct the failures of this policy now and working to ensure that the next Labour government puts our children and their education at the heart of its programme while in office.”

For further information contact: Neil Guild, Labour party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane, on 07950700872





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