Tories drop plan to scrap free school meals

5 Jul 17

The government has dropped the controversial Conservative manifesto commitment to scrap free school meals for infants.

Challenged by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner in parliament today, schools minister Nick Gibb said: “We have listened carefully to the sector’s views on the proposal to remove infant free school meals, and we have decided that it is right to retain the existing provision.

“Universal infant free school meals ensure that children receive a nutritious meal during the day, which saves hard-working families hundreds of pounds a year and boosts educational achievement, especially among children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Free meals for 5-7 year olds were introduced under the Coalition in 2014.

The Tory manifesto for last month's general election said: “We do not believe that giving school lunches to all children free of charge for the first three years of primary school – regardless of the income of their parents – is a sensible use of public money.

“There is now good evidence that school breakfasts are at least as effective in helping children to make progress in school. So under a new Conservative government, schools in England will offer a free school breakfast to every child in every year of primary school, while children from low-income families will continue to receive free school lunches.”

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said Gibb’s announcement was “a victory for all those who campaigned to retain free school meals for all infant children.

“It is hard to credit that a Conservative Government was seriously considering taking the food off young children’s plates.’

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