Anger at bid to offer free meals for holiday kids

A PLAN to give free meals to needy pupils during school holidays has been branded "not thought through."

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Anger at bid to offer free meals for holiday kids
Anger at bid to offer free meals for holiday kids

Opposition members have rounded on the proposals agreed by Labour-run Renfrewshire Council.

It came after the council decided to reverse a previous SNP policy which extended free meals to all pupils in 16 of Renfrewshire's most deprived communities.

The new announcement by the current Labour administration will instead see only those pupils who fall below nationally-set poverty levels eligible for a free meal. There is one difference - those pupils will also get free meals during the school holidays.

The idea drawn criticism from the SNP with Paisley North councillor Kenny MacLaren said: "Labour haven't thought through this idea.

"In deciding to remove free school meals from around 1000 pupils across 16 schools, Labour's plan is falling apart under questioning.

"The idea of extending free school meals, initially to selec-ted schools, was to remove the stigma of pupils who received them based on family income.

"By going back to a means-tested school meals policy for pupils in Primaries 1 to 3, Labour will bring back the stigma of claiming free meals which will have an impact on the take-up of such meals.

"The previous policy was aimed at removing stigma but also improving children's concentration and attainment in the classroom.

"Where are the meals going to be offered during school breaks? Who will serve the meals or clean up, since both the catering and cleaning staff normally work term time hours?"

A council spokesman said a further report was being prepared and Jacqueline Hendry, Renfrewshire's education convener said: "This council's budget protects Renfrewshire's education budget for the first time in years, despite a cash cut of £2million in Scottish Government funding.

"The previous policy of giving greater access to school meals to P1 to P3 pupils at just 16 schools took no account of parental income.

"Parents and families in real need were effectively subsidising parents in more affluent areas.

"The policy was unfair, divisive and didn't reflect true social or economic need. In one case, families in two schools sharing the same campus had different entitlements.

"We have targeted funds at those who need them most and are extending access to free meals during holiday periods for those primary and nursery pupils who are genuinely entitled to them."

ewan.fergus@eveningtimes.co.uk

Education

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