Well, it’s not quite the headline story but at least it’s there. BBC Scotland, this morning, shows no sign of interest.
Of course the announcement has a political aspect just like the really entertaining proposals by the Tories to save the planet and build affordable homes or the Labour proposal to boost the economy by having their leaflets printed in England, but, is it a good idea?
It couldn’t be much better and the Child Poverty Action Group’s MP briefing, sourced by reader Cameron Brodie for TuS, in December 2020 is clear and comprehensive:
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has long been an advocate of making free school meals a universal part of the school experience. As well as preventing and reducing child poverty, the provision of school meals to all pupils has a number of other well-documented benefits:
- It helps to tackle inequalities. Many families living in poverty are not currently entitled to free school meals for their children, but are unable to afford to pay for meals themselves. Making the approach universal avoids children missing out because of the harshness of the means-tested system.
- It supports family budgets and home life. Families with more than one child particularly benefit from this increase in disposable income that can be spent on other living costs, ultimately reducing pressure on household finances. A universal approach also removes the cliff edge associated with increasing earnings and therefore reduces the poverty trap.1
- It boosts learning and attainment. School meals impact positively on children’s learning experiences. An evaluation of a universal free school meals pilot for primary school children showed significant increases in attainment (around two months’ more progress), and this increase was found to be greater among less affluent pupils.2
- It boosts uptake and reduces poverty-related stigma. Uptake of free school meals by those eligible for meanstested free school meals has been shown to increase when the offer is universal. The stigma associated with free school meals, which can reduce take-up, is removed by viewing school meals as a basic entitlement for all children.3
- It helps to create bonds in the dinner hall through shared meal experiences. Free school meals impact all areas of schooling including social relationships. There are clear benefits to the school community from pupils sitting down together and eating the same food, as well as observing and learning social skills through the shared dining experience.4
- It supports children’s health by providing a balanced meal each day. Having a balanced meal each day can have a positive impact on children’s health and development. An adequate school meal also helps to increase concentration levels throughout the day and provides an opportunity for children to experience new food. A universal approach has the potential to decrease health inequalities among children.
CPAG estimates that providing a daily meal for every child in school would cost the government an additional £1.6bn per year on top of the current status-quo of means-tested free school meals and universal infant free school meals.
Full report and references at: https://cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/policypost/CPAG-FSM-briefing-2020.pdf