Unions, churches and charities add to calls for Scottish Government to deliver on free school meals
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), STUC, UNISON and Church of Scotland today join children’s organisations and anti-poverty campaigners in calling for the roll out of free school meals to all Scottish primary school pupils in P1 to P3. The call follows the announcement last week by the Deputy Prime Minister that children in the first three years of school in England will receive a free school lunch from September 2014.
In a letter sent to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretaries for Finance, Education and Health the organisations say that the UK government announcement “creates a huge opportunity for the Scottish Government to now fulfil its ambition of providing a free healthy meal to all children in P1 to P3”.
The organisations behind the letter, who also include Save the Children, Children 1st, One Parent Families Scotland and the Child Poverty Action Group, go on to urge Ministers to act “as soon as possible to confirm that P1 to P3 children in Scottish primary schools will also now receive a healthy school lunch from September 2014”.
The Scottish Government has a long standing policy objective of moving toward the provision of free school meals to all pupils in P1 to P3. However in their letter the organisations say “it has been a matter of real concern and disappointment that, to date, the roll out of free school meals to all pupils in P1 to P3, as announced by the Scottish Government in 2010, has not yet been fully implemented”.
Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, a signatory to the letter, said;
“Ensuring that all pupils in P1 to P3 receive a free school meal would be a significant step, which would aid family budgets, bring important health benefits for young children and help these pupils concentrate on their learning throughout the school day. The EIS supports the principle of universal free entitlement to help remove the stigma that some pupils can experience in claiming free school meals. For health reasons, it is vitally important that all pupils across Scotland have access to substantial and nutritionally balanced meals at lunchtimes."
Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the STUC, another leading signatory, said;
“Families across the country are under massive pressures as benefit and tax credit cuts bite, wages stagnate and the cost of food and energy soar. Ensuring children in the early years of primary school all get a healthy free lunch would play a hugely important role in relieving pressure on family budgets, helping make work pay for parents and boosting children’s health and wellbeing.”
John Dickie, Head of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland and a leading member of the Scottish Free School Meals Campaign added,
"Scotland has led the way over the last few years in improving school lunches, piloting and committing to universal school meals in the early years of primary and expanding entitlement. This is now the ideal time for Ministers to take the next step and deliver longstanding commitments to roll out free school meals to all pupils inP1 to P3. Such a move would protect against rising levels of child poverty and food poverty and at the same time ensure all our children are able to get the most out of the school day.”