The Mail is reporting that the prime minister and the education secretary disagree over the future of universal free school meals after David Cameron appeared to indicate the policy would not be scrapped.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail revealed that Nicky Morgan had suggested getting rid of the £600million service as part of a spending review.
Her department had drawn up plans to end universal free meals for four to seven year olds in an attempt to save money.
However, in an interview yesterday, the Prime Minister defended the policy, which was included in the Tory manifesto. He told Sky News: ‘We’re very proud of what we’ve done on free school meals, there was some excellent reform carried out in the last Parliament.
‘We’re going to have a spending review where obviously we have to make sure we deliver on our spending promises, but we’re very proud of what we’ve done with free school meals.’
Yesterday Downing Street sources also made it clear that the Prime Minister is wedded to the scheme. One aide said: ‘He is pretty clear. He underlines that it’s in the manifesto and it’s free school meals for all children.’ Another added: ‘There is no way he is going to scrap it.’
The Prime Minister’s comments have alarmed officials at the Department for Education. One source expressed hope that Mr Cameron’s words had been ‘misinterpreted’, adding: ‘He’s not saying it’s off the table.’
The same source warned: ‘Frankly we are not going to find £600million from anywhere else.’
The department wants to revert to the previous system of free meals being provided for poorer children.
But more than 40 top doctors, dentists and health officials have lent the policy their support, signing a letter warning that dropping the scheme would be ‘short-sighted’ – and could end up fuelling the nation’s obesity crisis, as well as increasing levels of tooth decay…
It seem to me like the PM has been bounced into making this apparent commitment to keep the policy in order to avoid negative PR, yet many in education (including the clear majority who participated in our most recent poll on the question) would – apparently like Nicky Morgan – rather the money was spent differently (assuming it stayed within education).
Funny old world.
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