ASCL comment on IFS report on free school meals

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on new research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which found that there are 1.7 million pupils in England who are not eligible for free school meals despite their families being entitled to universal credit.
“It is shameful that so many children continue to miss out on a scheme with such proven benefits. As this report states, there is clear evidence that increasing the take-up of school lunches has a positive impact on living standards, nutrition and attainment that persists into adulthood. Providing free school meals alleviates some of the pressure on struggling families and gives children the guarantee of a healthy meal every day.
“ASCL and many other organisations have long called for free school meals to be extended to all children whose families are in receipt of universal credit. This is a simple, immediate step the government could take to ease the impact of the cost-of-living crisis which has made life even more difficult for many families.
“Not only has the government ignored these pleas, but it has also failed to provide enough funding for free school meals to keep pace with soaring inflation rates. The IFS report states that funding has fallen by 16% in real terms since 2014, when measured against the Consumer Prices Index. This is the equivalent of almost 50p per meal and increases the risk of schools being forced to cut back on provision at a time when it is a lifeline for many families. We implore the government to reconsider its position by improving the funding rate and extending the provision.”