Free school meals for all will be a ‘logistical nightmare’ warns head

Proposal for free school meals could pose problems for schools.

Proposal for free school meals could pose problems for schools. - Credit: Archant

THE headteacher of a Nailsea school has raised concerns about how it will provide all infant aged pupils with free school meals from September.

The Government has announced all pupils in reception to year two will be eligible for a free school meal from next year.

The initiative will affect 6,892 North Somerset children with the aim of saving families £400 a year per child and raising attainment levels.

But schools are worried about their ability to cook so many extra meals and feed all the pupils in just one hour.

Kevin Lynch, headteacher of Golden Valley Primary School, said: “I’m not sure it’s been very well thought through and will provide many schools with a logistical nightmare.

“In our school we cook nearly 200 meals a day and that would increase significantly and have a massive impact on efficiently getting children through the hall in the time we’ve got.

“The school might have to start a two-hour lunch break and have it in shifts.

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“However, encouraging children to have a balanced, healthy meal at lunch time is a good thing.”

Free meals for primary school pupils were recommended by a Department for Education review which found students receiving free school dinners were more advanced academically than their peers elsewhere.

The study also found packed lunches were nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal.

In light of the Government’s announcement, North Somerset Council has confirmed schools will need to review staffing arrangements and the structure of the school day.

A spokesman said: “It will be unrealistic for schools to expect meal numbers to double and not alter their lunch time arrangements to cope with this.

“There will be additional costs to provide for additional numbers - not only production capacity but crockery and cutlery, cooking tins, transport for those schools without kitchens and lunch time supervision staff.

“We do not know how the council or schools will be funded for the meals or if there will be any additional funding to meet the cost of this increase in demand and the knock-on requirements.”

The new policy does not ban packed lunches, but the aim is to boost the numbers of pupils having school dinners and raise achievement levels.