Leaked documents reveal fall-out from universal free school meals policy

The Mail is reporting that it has obtained two leaked documents that suggest Nick Clegg’s universal free school meals policy has led to severe financial and logistical problems in several schools (especially because of the impact on pupil premium)…

…a letter David Laws sent to some headteachers last month hints at the true extent of the problem. Entitled ‘Important: Message from David Laws on Universal Infant Free School Meals and the Pupil Premium’, it starts by thanking teachers for helping to provide the new free school meals but then he explains how, compared to previous terms, the introduction of free school meals has had an impact on schools claiming the £1,320 bonus for low-income children.

‘I know that schools have also been working hard to encourage parents of pupils who would otherwise have been entitled to free school meals because they are in receipt of certain benefits, to continue to register their entitlement,’ he writes. ‘Broadly speaking, the figures [for those claiming free meals] have held up well but in some schools there has been a notable reduction. Your school is one of those showing a sizeable drop in either the number or percentage of reception pupils registered for benefits-based free school meals.

‘This probably means that neither your school nor your disadvantaged pupils are fully benefiting from the additional support of pupil premium funding to which you would otherwise be entitled. As you know, the next school census is due and it is important that you continue to do all you can to encourage as many parents as possible to register their entitlement to benefits-based free school meals before this date.

‘This will ensure that your school receives its full entitlement of pupil premium.’

The teacher who sent me this letter, and who does not want to be named, says many teachers believe the Liberal Democrats fear that the next census will reveal the ‘devastating effect’ their free school meals policy has had…

It is not just this disastrous knock-on effect that is causing headteachers to rue the day the policy was ever implemented. Another letter leaked to me shows how giving meals to an extra 1.3 million pupils has created a logistical nightmare for many schools…

Last month, a private catering company wrote to 50 primary and junior schools in and around Stockport, in Greater Manchester, to raise concerns over the safety implications of Mr Clegg’s policy.

In the letter, the company says some of its staff had been injured when trying to meet the demands of the new scheme…

One headmaster who received that letter, and who did not want to be named, said teachers were having to run a ‘military operation’ to get so many children in and out of dining halls…

More at: How Clegg’s free school meals have left poor pupils WORSE off: Leaked documents reveal the devastating unforeseen fall-out from his flagship policy


Nothing particularly new here in terms of the issues being raised but clearly the worst fears that had been anticipated are coming to fruition in at least some schools over pupil premium registration.

I’ve said it before, but is it not a bit baffling that this went ahead without a system in place to avoid the pupil premium and universal free school meals policies tripping each other up when it was such a likely outcome?


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove None of these issues should be a surprise as they were all highlighted beforehand by teachers; politicians ignored warnings

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove The 2 major issues were pointed out to Clegg/Laws beforehand. They ploughed on regardless because they “knew best”. Oh dear

  3. pompeygeorge

    This failed the “My Mum” test.
    If my mum (not an educational expert) could see the obvious flaws in the system prior to it happening, then they certainly should have.

  4. AndyDefinite

    BehaviourA You mean it’s caused all the problems we said it would and they said we were wrong but we were right?Trust informed dissent!

  5. sheilamouna

    GoodSchoolsUK SchoolsImprove even more difficult in Tower Hamlets where the mayor decided he would give all children y3-6 FSM too, votes??

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