Hull MP Diana Johnson condemns 'postcode lottery' over cost of school meals in her city

A Labour MP has condemned what she described as a postcode lottery over how much children in her city have to pay for school meals

Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson led a debate in the Commons over increases to the cost of school meals which have been introduced since last year.

She told MPs that after remaining at 50p a meal for some years, last January the price doubled after academy heads decided to reduce their schools’ contributions to the subsidy funding agreement.

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Hull North MP Dame Diana JohnsonHull North MP Dame Diana Johnson
Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson
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And she said that this January the Hull Association of Primary Head Teachers again reduced their contribution to school meal costs, meaning the price has gone up to £1.50 per meal, with plans to increase to the full cost of £2.30 later this year.

Dame Diana told the Commons: "There is now a postcode lottery in Hull, and the charge depends on which school a child attends. Oldfield Primary School has stuck to 50p, and it is great that it has managed to do so.

"The co-operative learning trust, with seven primary schools, has not raised its price from £1, but many other schools now charge £1.50.

"I think that there is a socialist moral case, and a one nation case, for this policy. The art of politics is at least trying to influence events on behalf of the communities that elect us.

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"It is also unclear what has been agreed about continuing to pay a subsidy to schools that then go on to charge the full cost of a meal, and do not use that subsidy for its intended purpose.

"This is extremely disappointing, as Hull’s strong reputation for supporting healthy, low-priced school meals cannot simply be abandoned.

"For me, politics is about standing up when something is not right, rolling up my sleeves and fighting to challenge it. I strongly believe that the benefits of access to low-cost, nutritious food to children in Hull cannot be overstated.

"These price hikes will mean that those 'just managing' working families will be under even more financial pressure, and children may miss out on good nutritious food that helps them to succeed at school and grow up as healthily as possible."

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Responding, Education Minister Michelle Donelan said: "I am sure that the local authority and primary headteachers will not have taken this decision lightly, and I note that the change is being made incrementally over two years.

"I have heard the Honourable Member’s concerns, and I sympathise with them, but my Department and I believe it is absolutely right that school leaders have the freedom to run their schools as they know best."