ASCL comment on Deltapoll/NEU survey showing parents support extension of free school meals

Julia Harnden, Funding Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to a survey from Deltapoll/NEU, which shows the vast majority of parents recognise the health and educational benefits of free school meals and support the scheme’s expansion.
“It’s clear that where there is access to free school meals, they can provide a lifeline to many families. The problem is that the current system of means testing children’s access is just not working, with the restrictive eligibility criteria meaning there are hundreds of thousands of children living in poverty who are not able to make use of this scheme.

“All children and young people, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunity to access nutritious school food so that they are ready and able to learn. As we consider how best to achieve this long-term, there are simple steps that could be made to ensure that no child goes hungry at school. Extending the criteria for free school meal eligibility to all families in receipt of universal credit, and introducing a system of auto-enrolment for all eligible children and young people, would be good places to start.

“Widening free school meals will require increased public spending, but really this is an opportunity to invest in the health and wellbeing of future generations. It should not be a difficult decision for the next government to make.”