Following years of campaign work raising awareness of the importance of free school meals through the media, amongst policy makers, working to build cross party support, attending fringe meetings at party conferences, monitoring the success of Scottish Executive strategies, working with local communities to organise community based campaign meetings, the Campaign has achieved significant results.
Scottish Government: Extends free school meals to all children in P1-P3
The Scottish Government announced in October 2008 that free school meals would be rolled out to all children in Primary 1 to 3 from 2010. Announcing the move Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education said, that “The Government has made it a priority to help children in their early years and this initiative does just that, providing every child with a free school meal in their first years at primary school.” Whilst there is no legal entitlement to a free school meal for P1 to P3 pupils local authorities have explicitly agreed the roll out of free school meals as part of the funding settlement and underpinning Concordat signed by local authorities in 2007.
Free school meal entitlement extended to all children in families receiving maximum working tax credit
Whilst continuing to press for a universal approach to free school meal entitlement as the most effective way of ensuring every child gets a healthy meal during the school day CPAG welcomed the significant extension to free school meal entitlement that will come into force in Scotland from August 2009. The Education (School Lunches) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 have now been passed by the Scottish Parliament and will come into force on 3 August 2009. The regulations will mean that, in addition to the current criteria, pupils whose parents or carers are in receipt of an award of both Child tax Credit and Working Tax Credit that is based on the threshold for receipt of maximum Working Tax Credit (currently set by the UK Government at £6,420) will be entitled to free school lunches. The Scottish Government estimates an additional 44 000 children will become eligible for free school meals as a result.
Free school meal pilot announced by new Scottish Government
The announcement followed the successful piloting of free school meals for all primary one to three pupils in five local authorities (Glasgow, the Borders, East Ayrshire, Fife and West Dunbartonshire) for six months from October 2007. The evaluation of this pilot found that the universal approach increased uptake from 53% to 75% overall. Significantly take up also increased amongst those already entitled to free school meals – up on average by 4.4%, but with increases up to 8.5% in some areas.
Scottish Executive pledge
Scotland’s former First Minister, Jack McConnell MSP, delivered the keynote address at the launch of Poverty in Scotland 2007 in March 2007 when he also pledged that if Labour won power in the forthcoming election, that they would extend free school meals to an extra 100,000 children whose parents receive working tax credit.
Scottish Executive: School Meals and Snacks (Scotland) Bill
The campaign lobbied members of the Scottish Parliament to support a new, School Meals and Snacks (Scotland) Bill proposal lodged by Frances Curran MSP on 22 March 2006. This Bill aimed to introduce free, nutritious school meals for all of Scotland’s primary school children, as well as statutory nutritional standards, a complaints and enforcement scheme, powers to ban the promotion of junk food in schools and guaranteed access to water and milk. CPAG in Scotland, along with the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, Poverty Alliance, One Plus and the Scottish Churches Social Inclusion Network wrote a letter (479 KB Word doc) to every MSP calling on them to support the Bill. Individual supporters also wrote to their MSPs and responded to a Scottish Executive consultation on the Bill. An analysis and summary of the 500 overwhelmingly positive responses to the consultation on the proposed Bill in 2005 and can be viewed on the Scottish Parliament website. Many MSPs from different parties, including Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Independent and Socialist members, pledged their support for the new Bill. However, due to pressures on the Parliamentary timetable, Frances Curran MSP’s free school meals Bill (along with several other Members’ Bills) was not considered, despite receiving massive support and having met all deadlines.
Other campaign activity included: working to build cross party support, attending fringe meetings at party conferences, monitoring the success of Scottish Government strategies, working with local communities to organise community based campaign meetings and an ebulletin keeping supporters up-to-date with the campaign’s progress.