Primary school may have to serve pub sandwiches to meet free meals pledge

The Guardian is reporting that pupils at a Bath primary may have to be fed sandwiches from the local pub as an emergency measure while the school struggles to upgrade its kitchens to comply with the expansion of the government’s free school meals programme…

According to the Local Government Association, the school is one of 1,500 primaries in England that will struggle to feed all their youngest children next week, a year after Nick Clegg pledged that all reception and year one and two children would get free school meals.

Other schools contacted by the Guardian report having to raid IT and other budgets to improve kitchens – even though the coalition agreed to find £150m in emergency funding to pay for the measure last year. The LGA added that nearly half of councils (47%) say they did not receive enough money from ministers to meet the beginning of term deadline without resorting to other funds.

St Stephen’s Church of England primary school in Bath is busy fitting an expanded kitchen to provide meals for its youngest pupils, according to outgoing headteacher Peter Mountstephen, who says he is unsure that building work will be ready on time.

“You can’t see the hall floor, there’s a big hole in the wall where the kitchen used to be. I don’t know what we’re going to do about feeding the children. If push comes to shove there’s a pub that’s not very far away, we’ll get them to make us some sandwiches,” he said.

Andy Bowman, who will take over as head at the school from next term, says it is more likely the local authority will step in if emergency meals are needed, but all measures are being considered, warning that policymakers are “not aware of the sense of urgency” among primary schools.

Councillor David Simmonds, chair of LGA’s children and young people board, says: “It’s not a consistent national picture, but in many areas around 90% of schools are ready, others might be waiting for building work or specialist equipment.” That leaves an estimated 10% not having completed their upgrade.

However, the Department for Education insisted that the vast majority of infant schools eligible for the new funding were ready to provide free meals. A survey it conducted of local authorities and academies showed that of 15,567 schools – 94% of the schools eligible – only a handful are not yet ready to provide free meals for infants. The department said that 239 schools, or 1.5% of the total, will not be providing hot meals, according to local authority figures…

Valentine Mulholland, policy adviser at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), says the short deadline for introducing the programme meant funding was not allocated according to need. “Because it was agreed so late, it wasn’t possible for the government to look at which schools need money more than others, so it was given evenly to all.”…

Some schools that do not have their own kitchen facilities will supply meals cooked elsewhere, says Paul Walker, chair of National Primary Headteachers. He says this method is not ideal: “Often they will leave the host kitchen a good 45 minutes before they arrive at a servery. These meals cannot be as good quality as those served from the production kitchen.”

However, a Liberal Democrat source said: “Despite its popularity with parents, many on the right of politics have been desperate to see this project fail and have undermined it at every turn. These figures show that schools are set to prove the naysayers wrong.”

But the headteacher in Bath said the current situation was not ideal. “There will be short-term solutions one way or another, but the point of this was to provide children with a good-quality hot school meal in the middle of the day. Nipping round the local pub to go and get the kids a sandwich isn’t really the same thing,” said Mountstephen…

More at: Primary school may have to serve pub sandwiches to meet free meals pledge


How are things looking in your school for the new term? Are facilities in place to cook meals? Will you be shipping in hot meals from elsewhere? Or have you needed to resort to other solutions? Please let us know…


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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove A flagship Lib Dem policy with the Tories holding the purse strings. Children/schools suffer. Politicians morally deficient

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