A good school meal, every day, helps children to do better at school. It improves academic performance. There is a lot of evidence that when everyone, regardless of income, has a free school meal, the take up of meals is maximised1. One in five children in MK schools come from a household in poverty. We know that 55% of people in poverty are in working households2.
Since 2016, in Milton Keynes, all free school meals have had to be applied for online. It is no longer possible to apply on paper. The combination of online applications, and the ‘stigma’ of means testing, results in many local income households losing out.
It is not the same with other public services, which are universal (available to everyone). For example, prescriptions are available to all regardless of income, as are care assessments. These are the most effective services.
Cllr Zoe Nolan, Cabinet member for children and families said:
“We would like to see a local campaign to ensure that all parents, regardless of household income, are applying for free school meals. I would like to see schools, the media, GP practices, children’s centres, breakfast clubs, after school clubs, and sports clubs all working together to increase take-up of school meals.”
In the longer term it would be even better if all primary school children had free school meals, not just reception and Years 1 and 2 children.
Milton Keynes Labour-led council have therefore welcomed the proposal by the National Labour Party to offer free school meals to all children.
Zoe Nolan, added:
“With 1 in 5 children in Milton Keynes growing up in poverty, this bold Labour policy would be a great way of helping families who are short of money. We know breakfast clubs help children to learn. The evidence from pilots by Labour Councils3 is that, if all children have a free school meal, it would drive up educational achievements for all children. Wouldn’t that be great?”
She concluded, “However, in the short term we need to all work together to increase the online take-up locally. Please help us.”
Cllr Zoe Nolan. 07881209775
1. Department of Education report 2012. (Quoted in Guardian 07.04.17)
2. Monitoring Poverty and Exclusion . Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) (7.12.16)
3. Pilots were carried out in 2008 in the London Borough of Newham and Durham County Council. Both showed universal provision improved performance at key stages 1 and 2 and especially amongst lower income households. (Guardian 07.04.17)
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