The BBC is reporting that about three quarters of children in the early years of primary school are now taking school dinners…
Since January, all children in Primaries 1, 2 and 3 have been entitled to a free school lunch.
As expected, in most places the number of children eating a school meal has increased significantly.
But some councils are disappointed the rise has not been even greater.
BBC Scotland asked Scotland’s 32 councils how many Primary 1, 2 and 3 pupils were now taking advantage of free school meals and how this compared to the situation beforehand when most parents had to pay.
Not all councils were able to provide information publicly or give direct comparisons with previous years.
But the replies indicate that the take-up of free school dinners varies widely from area to area.
As a general rule, between seven and eight out of 10 pupils in Primaries 1, 2 and 3 are now taking a school dinner on a typical day…
But some councils say they would like to see take-up increase even more.
In North Lanarkshire, the uptake is now 69% but the council says it hopes to drive this up to 75%.
Glasgow anticipated serving an extra 4,000 school meals a day – the actual rise is significantly lower than that at around 2,800.
The council says it will be looking at uptake in each school and will work with headteachers to ensure all parents and carers realise all P1-3 pupils are now entitled to a free meal…
There are a number of possible reasons why some children and parents are not taking up free school dinners.
For example, some children may have special nutritional requirements or be fussy eaters so go home on the days when the choices are unsuitable. School dinner menus are usually available in advance now.
Some parents may have misconceptions about school dinners based on their own experiences when they were younger.
And naturally some children might simply want to go home at lunchtime – especially if they live close to the school.
However, teachers will also be aware that if a child does not want to stay at school at lunchtime it could, in some cases, be a sign that they are unhappy at school or even being bullied…
A key question must be whether the seven or eight out of ten who are taking up the free meals include those who most need them? There has been a lot of controversy in England over the funding of the universal free school meals programme – have similar issues emerged in Scotland or has a different approach been used?
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