WITH just two weeks to go until the beginning of term, two schools in Worcestershire are still not yet set up to give children their free lunchtime meal.
Parents in the county are set to save £6.3million a year when free school dinners are introduced for all pupils aged four to seven at primary schools this term.
But two schools may not be ready in time to deliver the hot lunches to pupils.
After a £1.2million spend by Worcestershire County Council, 157 schools are now ready to serve the 15,864 children who are aged between four and seven in the county eligible for free school meals. Another 27 say they will be ready by September, but two have not yet had their plans finalised to deliver the Universal Infant Free School Meals programme from central Government.
Councillor Liz Eyre, county council cabinet member for responsibility for children and families, said she was happy with the progress made by the schools to get ready for the new term and that the council would be supporting the two schools to make sure they were ready.
The council declined to name the two schools.
“This has been very welcome additional money. One-hundred-and-fifty-seven of all schools involved have reported they are on track to deliver Universal Infant Free School Meals in September. Twenty-seven of schools reported that they expected to be ready by September,” she said.
“Only two of the schools reported they have not yet finalised plans to deliver universal infant free school meals in September. We are working with all 186 schools to ensure they are able to deliver the programme in September.”
Once the programme is in full swing, parents who previously spent up to £400 a year on school lunches per child, will reap the savings with the Governmental meals. Aside from savings for parents, the meals are aimed at giving young children a healthy, nutritious lunch with the hope of improving concentration and learning in the classroom.
The Children’s Food Trust reported that one one per cent of packed lunches met the Government’s nutritional standard.
Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, who is spearheading the initiative, said research in pilot schools had shown that those children given the meals were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.
“Free school meals for infants will not only save families hundreds of pounds a year but will also have an impact on how a child performs in the classroom so that, regardless of their background, every child can have the best possible start in life.
“This is one of the most progressive changes to our school system for a long time. My goal is to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance.”
Free schools meals will continue to be means tested for children from year three onwards.
For more about the programme, see worcestershire.gov.uk/cms/school-information/school-free-meals.aspx COMMENT: PAGE 16