Heads fears funding not ready for free school meals plan

This Is Wiltshire: Headteacher of Goddard Park Primary school, Mike Welsh Headteacher of Goddard Park Primary school, Mike Welsh

HEADTEACHERS have expressed concern at the Government’s announcement that all schools must provide a hot meal for all pupils in Years 1 and 2 by September.

While they support the premise of a hot meal for every child, they are worried the funding will not be in place to bring in the necessary changes.

Mike Welsh, the head of Goddard Park Primary and former president of the National Association of Headteachers, says the funding will need to be provided long term if the move is to be effective.

He said: “I and most other headteachers I have spoken with are delighted with the idea of the children all getting a hot meal.

“Our concern is that the date for implementation is too soon and some schools may not be ready for the change. There is a lot of work that needs to be done such as providing more equipment for the kitchens, space for pupils and staff.

“As it stands we don’t know the funds we will have and whether it will be there in the long term.”

The announcement was made last year by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and now the council is working to ensure it can be put in place.

Mike says it is not just about providing funds to implement the changes in time for September but to make sure the money is available to continue with the process.

“Providing healthy and quality meals is something which needs to be done properly,” he said.

“For example, we will need to provide lunch for an extra 150 children, which will mean we need a larger kitchen and to provide the adequate staff. If the Government does not make the money available then I don’t see how it can be done properly.”

Last week, the amount of money being made available to the council was announced. A team has been set up to analyse bids from the 35 schools in the region that are likely to need money.

Coun Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon and Lawn), cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are working hard to make sure that the Government’s aim to give all parents the choice of a hot school meal for their child will be in place from September. We have been given £360,000 funding to do this, which will be allocated between 35 schools, depending on the level of work that needs to be done.

“Large-scale work will not be needed in any schools as far as we can see, but some may need new or more equipment, such as cookers and fridges.”

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