MP in free school meals talk

Eric Ollerenshaw MP.
Eric Ollerenshaw MP.

Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw has met with the school minister David Laws to discuss concerns raised by local schools over the provision of Free School Meals to young children.

The scheme is due to start in September in state-funded English schools for pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2.

Since the announcement of the FSM policy, a number of small schools in rural areas around Lancaster and Wyre have raised their concerns with Mr Ollerenshaw over several issues.

These include:

n Increased staffing costs due to the need for additional kitchen staff and lunchtime supervisors.

n Timetable changes needed to ensure that all children have time to collect and eat their food. This is also due to some schools needing additional time to cook the extra meals required.

n Timescale for implementation – many small schools have voiced concerns over how quickly the policy is being enacted and how they may not have the funding to comply with this policy in time for the new school year due to smaller budgets than those of larger urban primary schools.

n A current lack of details for how this policy is to be financed.

n Changing the variety of food pupils currently have to eat. Several schools have raised the point that pupils currently have a choice of what food they eat. With the increase in children requiring school meals, many of these schools may have to change to a single ‘plated up’ meal due to time constraints at lunch and the additional time required to cook the food.

n Some schools have highlighted that as they have small budgets implementing subsidised FSM’s will mean they spend more on meal subsidies than delivering the curriculum.

Mr Ollerenshaw said: “Whilst this is in principle a good policy, and an important one for our children, I am concerned about the extra strain this is going to place on many smaller, rural schools.

“Many of our rural primary schools have said that they currently do not have the facilities or finance to cope with providing free school meals as easily as larger urban schools.

“I hope that, in light of meeting the minister, we will be able to address the concerns raised by our rural schools.”