Universal free school meals ‘could mean staff lay-offs’

Sky News is reporting that head teachers are warning the Government’s free school meal policy may negatively impact spending on education…

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) told Sky News as a result of the change “there will be a reduction in the pupil premium”.

One head teacher suggested he “may have to lay off staff”.

Universal free meals for infant pupils – unveiled last year by Nick Clegg – are due to launch in September.

Children from low-income families already get free lunches if parents notify the school of their circumstances. This then also qualifies the school for additional funding for education, called the pupil premium.

But it is feared the new policy will leave parents with less incentive to apply.

Tony Draper, head of Water Hall Primary School, near Milton Keynes, told Sky News: “There’s going to be no incentive for parents to declare their eligibility for free school meals, which in turn is going to knock on to the pupil premium payments to schools, and that pays to employ staff to deliver specific interventions to the children to aid their education.”

He added: “We will quite possibly end up having to lay off staff and children’s education will suffer as a result.”

Valentine Mulholland, policy advisor for the NAHT, told Sky News: “There will be an enormous amount of additional work and bureaucracy, and in some cases that work won’t come to fruition and there will be a reduction in the pupil premium.”

Schools in deprived areas are most reliant on this funding…

In January, Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to head teachers acknowledging that some schools have expressed “concerns about the impact of this change on the pupil premium”. He also says the Government is “considering how the pupil premium is allocated in the longer term”.

Schools Minister David Laws told Sky News: “It’s already the desire of our department to move in the future to a system where there’s much more of an automatic collection of this information from parents on entry to school, because we want a situation where all children who are entitled to free school meals get them, and also that all children who are entitled to the pupil premium get them.”

The minister would not put a timescale on when this might happen…

More at: Free School Meals ‘Could Mean Staff Lay-Offs’

How serious an issue are you expecting this to be and what measures is your/your child’s school taking (or planning on taking) to ensure as many families as possible register for free school meal eligibility? Would it have been better to introduce a different method of determining eligibility before (or at least alongside) the introduction of universal free meals? Please give us your thoughts and ideas in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. CllrRalphBerry

    SchoolsImprove yes. it’s a problem one Lib Dem policy shafts another and schools suffer #anotherfinemess

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