School may be forced to scrap hot dinners as it can’t afford to feed pupils
A junior school has warned it may have to scrap pupils’ hot lunches as it struggles with real-terms budget cuts.
The school told parents that it can no longer subsidise cooked meals, which currently cost £2.20 per day, amid rising expenses and a continuing funding freeze.
It means students whose families cannot provide a nutritious packed lunch could go without a healthy meal in the school day.
Eastern Green Junior School head Nicky Aston wrote to parents: “Schools face tremendous financial pressures as a result of frozen budgets and significantly increased running costs.
“The only way we can maintain our school meals is by significantly increasing the cost of school meals by up to 60%, which is both unfeasible and unreasonable.
“Another alternative solution is that we become a ‘packed lunch only’ school; if this decision is made, it is likely to take effect from September 2018.”
She told the Mirror: “It’s not something we’d do without really thinking about it.”
All pupils in England aged four to seven are entitled to free school meals, but the Coventry school’s pupils are seven to 11, so do not qualify.
Although its catchment area is not deprived, it extends into districts where poverty rates are significantly higher.
Gavin Lloyd, running as a Labour candidate in Coventry at next week’s local elections, said: “It’s disgraceful that schools are having to consider scrapping hot dinners for children due to funding cuts.
“It’s taking us back to a Dickensian time.”
Like most schools, Eastern Green uses a catering contractor, and it has heavily subsidised meals.
Because school funding now comes directly from central government, councils have no power to ensure cash for the meals.
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Councillors fear schools in poorer areas could have to make similar cuts.
Kevin Maton, cabinet member for education at Coventry City Council, urged ministers to increase budgets.
Teachers across the country have already warned they are having to feed and clothe pupils as a growing number of families cannot afford to do so.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has accused the Government of ditching its manifesto pledge to protect school budgets.
The school is now in talks with another contractor in the hope of a new deal that will allow it to keep hot meals.
By Mark Ellis, Education Correspondent
Schools are facing the hardest times in living memory with head teachers at their wits’ end as they try to balance the books.
Despite Tory claims that more than ever before is being spent, the reality is very different. Rising numbers, soaring costs and slashed support services are causing unprecedented pressure.
The National Association of Head Teachers, at their conference next week, will demand more funding. Meanwhile, heads are having to axe classroom assistants, support staff and teachers to stay within their budgets.
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