Free meals ‘will save parents over £60m’

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THE INTRODUCTION of free school meals for infant aged pupils will save parents in Yorkshire more than £60m, according to new Government figures.

With around 152,786 children in the region, aged between four and seven, now eligible for free school lunches, many parents who have previously spent up to £400 a year on packed lunches will now benefit from savings, the Coalition has claimed.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg – who announced and has led the new policy – said: “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.

“Pupils at the pilot schools who were all given free meals were found to be up to two months ahead of their peers elsewhere.

“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.”

Last year the Government published the School Food Plan, which it says aims to transform what children eat in schools and how they learn about food. Some £150m has been made available to improve school kitchen and dining facilities, with an extra £22.5m to help smaller schools.

However The Yorkshire Post has reported that building work needed on school kitchens in Yorkshire alone to be able to deliver the universal free school meals for infants will cost more than £10m and that five education authorities in the region have said they had not been given enough funding from the Government to do it.