Campaigners welcome school meals boost as pupils return to school across Scotland

August 17, 2009

Campaigners are welcoming a significant free school meals extension as children return to school across Scotland this week. For the first time children in families receiving maximum working tax credit will be entitled to a healthy free school meal, a move anti poverty groups say will ease the pressure on hard pressed families and boost children’s health and learning.

The free school meals extension comes as new research shows many families are struggling to buy all that their children need to go back to school, leading to debt, children missing out, and fear of stigma.

West Dunbartonshire congratulated for scrapping means test a year early for youngest pupils

Families in West Dunbartonshire will get an even greater boost. Children in the first three years of primary school will no longer be means tested to receive a free school meal. The local council’s introduction of a universal approach to free school meals comes a year ahead of a national roll out in 2010 agreed by the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

John Dickie, head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, and a leading member of the Scottish Free School Meals Campaign, said

“It is fantastic to see so many more children across Scotland become entitled to a healthy free school meal, particularly at a time of increasing financial pressure for so many families. Free school meals are an important way of supporting families and boosting children’s health and learning so West Dunbartonshire Council should be especially congratulated for leading the way and introducing free school meals to all pupils in P1 to P3 a year early. We look forward to next year when even more families across Scotland will benefit from the Scottish Government and COSLA commitment to provide universal free school meals to all pupils in the early years of primary school from 2010.”

Marion Davis, Policy, Development and Training manager at One Parent Families Scotland, another leading member of the Campaign said;

“Universal free school meals for primary school pupils could make a huge impact in tackling family poverty and improving children's health and ability to learn. Universal provision has a dramatic effect on the take-up of healthy school meals and on pupils' concentration and behaviour. Public opinion, parents and children’s organizations across Scotland have been shown to be fully behind the idea of universal free high quality school meals so the Scottish Government should be congratulated for implementing this bold initiative and putting children’s health first”

The extension to free school meals entitlement means families in Scotland will benefit from less restrictive means testing than those in other parts of the UK and child poverty campaigners are calling for a similar approach in England and Wales.

Notes for editors

For more details contact:

John Dickie, head of CPAG in Scotland, 0141 552 3656 or 07795 340 618

CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty and for a better deal for low-income families and children. With One Parent Families Scotland, the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty we co-ordinate the Scottish Campaign for Free School Meals.

  • the Scottish Parliament has approved regulations extending entitlement to all children whose parents are getting working tax credit with an annual income (as assessed by the Revenue for tax credits purposes) below £6,420 from August 2009. The Scottish Government estimates an additional 44 000 pupils will become entitled to a free school meal.
  • new research published this week shows many families are struggling to buy all that their children need to go back to school, leading to debt, children missing out, and fear of stigma see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/8204066.stm
  • A universal approach to free school meals in primary school is supported by a massive cross section of Scottish society, including children and families charities such as Children 1st, Save the Children, Action for Children (NCH), Children in Scotland and One Parents Families Scotland; trade unions and professional associations including the STUC, EIS, Association of Headteachers and Deputes Teachers (AHDS), RCN (Scotland), Scottish Women’s Convention, Unison; anti-poverty groups such as the Poverty Alliance; faith groups including members of the Scottish Churches Social Inclusion Network and the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland; health boards and academics.