All infants in England to get free school lunches

 

Nick Clegg: "A healthy hot meal gives children the ability to concentrate and do well in the classroom"

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All pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from next September, Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg has announced.

The change - for children in reception, year one and year two - will save parents about £400 a year per child.

Targeting infants would ensure "every child gets the chance in life they deserve", teach healthy eating habits and boost attainment, Mr Clegg said.

But Labour said the Lib Dems could not be trusted to deliver.

Money is being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to emulate the English scheme, but as education is a devolved issue, it is up to those running schools there to decide whether to spend the money on free lunches.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We are committed to expanding this provision further and, once we see the financial implications of this announcement for Scotland, we will examine how best to deliver that expansion."

'Feeling the squeeze'

Free primary school meals for all pupils was one of the recommendations of a recent review of school food by two founders of the Leon restaurant chain for the Department for Education.

Analysis

The idea of free school meals for all pupils has been cooking away for many years.

There have been several pilot studies and researchers analysing the outcomes last year claimed that a free meal for all helped to narrow the divide in the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils.

Supporters argued that children with a regular healthy meal were more likely to be able to concentrate, get better academic results and were less likely to be obese. It's a public health approach, covering everyone for the long-term benefit.

A similar project saw free fruit being given to the infant years, with its advocates saying that the gains from this measure would be felt decades in the future.

The quality of school food has also become an issue, since Jamie Oliver exposed the dark underbelly of twizzler cuisine.

Now Nick Clegg's announcement will see free meals offered as the recipe for better results.

It concluded that packed lunches were nearly always less nutritious than a cooked meal, and that giving all children free lunches would raise academic standards.

The new policy does not ban packed lunches, but the aim is that having the hot, free option, will boost the numbers of pupils having school dinners.

Mr Clegg said: "My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day.

"Millions of parents across the country are feeling the squeeze... I am determined to do all we can to help put money back in the pockets of these families.

"We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits.

"Universal free school meals will help give every child the chance in life that they deserve, building a stronger economy and fairer society."

The move was welcomed by the National Union of Teachers, who called for it to be extended to all primary school pupils.

Children "do not stop being hungry at seven years-of-age", said general secretary Christine Blower.

Dr Hilary Emery from the National Children's Bureau said: "It's encouraging that politicians have recognised the clear link between a good diet, children's health and performance in education - which is of particular importance to low income families."

At the moment free school meals are available to all children whose parents are on benefits or earn less than £16,190 a year.

Start Quote

Giving people something for nothing is rarely unpopular, even when they are paying for it through their taxes.”

End Quote

Providing them for all infants will cost an estimated £600m and comes after the previously universal child benefit was cut for those earning more than £50,000 a year.

The Lib Dems also announced that poorer college students will be entitled to free school meals - on the same basis as those studying at school sixth forms.

"The news will no doubt be welcomed by disadvantaged students and their parents at a time when family budgets are being stretched to the limit," said Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges.

But Labour's Stephen Twigg said: "After three years of broken promises and empty words, people have come to judge the Lib Dems on what they do, not what they say.

"They talk about helping families but they will have taken up to £7bn a year of support away from children by 2015. They talk about helping with school meals after supporting the Tories in scrapping Labour's plans to extend free meals for school kids. You can't trust a word the Lib Dems say."

Marriage tax break

Asked if it was fair to provide free schools lunches for the children of all, irrespective of wealth, Mr Clegg said: "We believe that where we can find the money, even in these difficult times, we need to really invest that money in giving all children regardless of their family background the very best possible start in life."

He said the details of where the money to fund the lunches was coming from would be given in Chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement.

At a briefing ahead of the announcement the Lib Dems suggested they had got the funding for school lunches in return for allowing Conservative plans for a marriage tax break.

Start Quote

Ministers are determined to make a series of gestures designed to alleviate the squeeze many families are feeling”

End Quote

The Department for Education ordered a review by restaurateurs Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent into the state of school meals in 2012 following strong criticism from TV chef Jamie Oliver, who earlier led a successful campaign to ban junk and processed food from school canteens.

Mr Oliver's campaign resulted in tight nutritional guidelines and healthy eating policies in many schools for those bringing packed lunches.

But in 2011 he claimed that standards were being eroded because academies and free schools were exempt from national nutritional guidelines.

Mr Dimbleby said he was "absolutely buzzing" following Mr Clegg's announcement.

He said: "Even those who have free school meals already benefit from this change of culture... Hopefully it will be the first step on the road to free school meals for everyone."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 739.

    I guess this is a good idea. However are hot school meals really healthier than a sandwich? We currently send both kids in with packed lunches as we therefore know exactly what they are eating; based on our judgement of what is healthy. Food for thought.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 738.

    So, 2013, coalition govt in name, but let's not pretend it is anything other than tory in nature.

    We are cutting the benefits of the poorest, the ill, disabled, unemployed and those who rent and have no qualms about forking out for food for the offspring of the better off. Apparently families on 300k pa also get 2k nursery help would be insane if that was true


    How perverse and sick can it get?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 737.

    People who produce children get benefits, among them child benefit. What do they spend the money on, if not feeding their offspring? We already pay for the roofs over their heads - how many more freebies are they going to get to encourage them to go on producing children they can't house, feed or clothe?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 736.

    Oh for god's sake! if people would learn how to even spell in the first place maybe they could begin to teach their children to.
    Some of the comments on here are just pathetic in their lack of anything to do with intelligent discussion. With lols and suchlike, their kids are going to be eating chips anyway! God help the next generation when it comes to communication in the first place. Blah Blah!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 735.

    completely agree with Joe Bloogs comment

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 734.

    Hot free meals for all, regardless of ability to pay - but what will the meals be like? How nutritious? Some kids only eat chips- I can foresee countless rows with chav parents threatening 'dinner ladies' for daring to force fresh fruit and veg on their chav offspring - Come on Darren, we'll go down McDonalds, you don'ave ter eat that muck -oo der they fink they are? LOL i.e. lots of luck!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 733.

    I think the real issue is how the people will be wasting their vote at the next election? Will they vote for:

    Labour who almost bankrupted the country with overspending?
    Conservatives who imposed so any cuts, who ignore billions of pounds of tax avoidance by corporations but go after 1 guy who owes £1000
    Or LibDems who crumbled under the Tories during this coalition gov.

    None of the above I say

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 732.

    I suppose the poor will have to pay for this again - a furher cut in benefits?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 731.

    Oh, I see. It is free lunch not breakfast. The same applies, though. If you have the money to pay for it, why should it be free? Free should be only to those who would not otherwise be able to buy a lunch.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 730.

    In theory, this is a welcome (although minor) measure (if it occurs, which is not certain if it is said by Clegg) but its the exception that proves the rule of the LibDems having such little influence over govt policy.
    On the major policy decisions, the Tories have been a free ride, even though the UK public were not convinced enough by them at the last election to give them a majority.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 729.

    697.Algy
    Were to rich to receive children's allowance but can't afforded to buy them a lunch? unbalavbly perverse stop treating people as idiolects

    Algy, if you're too rich to receive children's allowance why not spend some of your money on night school to teach you spelling and punctuation?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 728.

    Help me to understand why this policy is being proposed. Don't most children eat breakfast before going to school? And why should everyone get a free meal? Shouldn't the meals be reserved for the needy who would otherwise not receive them?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 727.

    Just another vote catcher for 2015 election and as soon as they have been re elected it will be found too costly or the take up is not good enough and it will be gone once schools have spent out on all the extra equipment how are schools going to know they are getting value for money or is it just another exercise to hand cash over to contractors

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 726.

    As a single and childless professional, it seems that my hard-earned cash, is for feeding other people's children, and with a marriage tax break, I'm also paying for other people's relationships.
    Don't worry Mr Clegg, I'll also be voting for another party.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 725.

    There really is no end to how much of our money the LibDems will give away. Clegg should really concentrate on other more important things.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 724.

    705.Kat
    Well you should talk to your local adult social services and see if they can help they may tell which benefit you can claim to cover such costs but such help may be means tested like most things this government have done

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 723.

    It is silly. Kids that need it already get free school meals. The privilege should not be extended to those that don't need it, including those from well-off backgrounds, to be subsidized by the already hard-pressed and often less well-off taxpayer.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 722.

    #720: "double the length of the lunch break"

    Not sure why this is necessary ... when I was at primary school, almost all of the 350 pupils ate school dinners. At grammar school, almost all 1200. This was done within a one-hour lunch break - with children having at least half of that for playtime, clubs, study, etc. before or after eating.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 721.

    706. brownbear
    Nasty party politics, go away Clegg you are done

    Not a Liberal voter,Labour in fact. Clegg is a very brave man, swallowed his promises, because reality crept in. Didn't realise how we'd screwed up. It was okay until Blair told Brown to free the Cheque Book and Brown took his eye off the ball. Still that's history. History will judge him, better than his press today.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 720.

    Good move; now all we need is to reopen the kitchens and employ the staff to administer all this and to double the length of the lunch break - currently it takes the best part of an hour to serve half our school who take up school dinners . We dont have the capacity to implement this policy. A few years down the line the Jamie Oliver effect has already given way to cost cutting at county level.

 

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  47.  
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  49.  
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    David Cameron addressing the conference
     
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  57.  
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  59.  
    Text: 61124 12:32: Get involved

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  60.  
    @JohnRentoul 12:32: John Rentoul, Columnist, Independent on Sunday

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    Structural deficit and surplus
     
  63.  
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  64.  
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  65.  
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  66.  
    12:26: Pensions

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  67.  
    @DuncanWeldon 12:25: Duncan Weldon, Economics Correspondent, BBC Newsnight

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  68.  
    12:24: Teenagers

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  69.  
    12:23: Unions

    Some more Labour attack from David Cameron - as he criticises the party's links with the unions. He says the Conservatives are the trade union for ordinary hard-working people and families.

     
  70.  
    @patrick_kidd 12:23: Patrick Kidd, Editor of The Times Diary column

    tweets: This is a really good speech. Unless you viscerally hate Cameron and the Tories in which case nothing he could say would change you.

     
  71.  
    Tweet: @BBCPolitics 12:22: Get involved

    @Brynleydm tweets: @BBCLouise @BBCPolitics Cameron speech full of what no mention of how

     
  72.  
    12:22: Education

    David Cameron tells activists the education system has improved significantly thanks to the Conservatives' education reforms - "with teachers who feel like leaders again". But Labour would risk all this, he claims. He attacks shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, who he claims is trying to restrict the educational advantages he had has a child - whereas "I want to spread them to every child" in the country.

     
  73.  
    12:21: Samantha Cameron hears her husband talk about their daughter
    Samantha Cameron watching her husband
     
  74.  
    12:20: Home ownership

    David Cameron turns to housing. He says planning reforms and the Help to Buy scheme have boosted housing supply and helped first-time buyers to get on to the housing ladder. Labour was wrong to oppose these policies, the PM adds. He reiterates the Conservatives' plan for 100,000 new starter homes for first-time buyers under the age of 40 at 20% off the market value. The Conservatives are the party of home ownership once again, Mr Cameron declares.

     
  75.  
    @paulwaugh 12:18: Paul Waugh, Editor of PoliticsHome.com

    tweets: Cameron conference audience feeling 'At last, a proper tax cut for those on middle incomes!'

     
  76.  
    12:17: Forgetting

    David Cameron goes on the attack now - criticising Ed Miliband for forgetting to mention the deficit in his speech. In a conciliatory note, Mr Cameron says people forget car keys and that he even forget his child in a pub (queue an apology to his wife, Samantha, in the audience). But you cannot be prime minister of this country if you forget to mention the most important issue it faces, he adds.

     
  77.  
    @rosschawkins 12:16: Ross Hawkins, BBC

    tweets: Cameron takes aim at Nick Clegg's fox

     
  78.  
    12:15: Spending choice

    Let the message go out that under the Conservatives, if you work hard and do the right thing, we say you should keep all of your own money to spend as you choose, David Cameron tells conference.

     
  79.  
    12:15: PM: Minimum-wage earners to pay "nothing"
    David Cameron on taxes
     
  80.  
    12:13: Breaking News

    Another tax announcement - David Cameron says far too many people have been dragged into the 40% tax rate - and pledges to bring back "fairness" to tax system. He says a future Tory government would raise the threshold from £41,900 to £50,00.

     
  81.  
    12:13: 'Zilch'

    David Cameron says raising the income tax threshold to £12,500 will take one million more people out of income tax, and give a tax cut to 30 million people. Those on the minimum wage working 30 hours a week or more will pay "zilch" in income tax, he says to applause.

     
  82.  
    12:11: Breaking News

    A future Conservative government will raise the tax free personal allowance from £10,500 to £12,500, David Cameron pledges.

     
  83.  
    12:11: More on taxes

    We need tax cuts for hard working people, David Cameron tells activists.

     
  84.  
    12:11: Taxes

    David Cameron says he wants working people to be able to take home more of their money. He cites previous action, including raises in the personal income tax allowance - which has taken three million people out of the income tax system altogether: a tax cut for 25 million people, he adds. The PM tells conference he wants to go further - but says it will only be possible by reducing the deficit, which requires a further £25bn of savings.

     
  85.  
    12:10: 'Yorkshireman' trending on Twitter

    @TradeDesk_Steve tweets: Cameron performs an impression of William Hague - says Hague is our greatest living Yorkshireman. @tonyhatfield tweets: Odd that political commentators are obsessed in debating whether Hague is 'best living Yorkshireman'. #cpc2014 #bbcdp

     
  86.  
    12:09: Welfare plan

    On tax avoidance, David Cameron adds that companies must "pay what you owe". Turning to welfare, he says the Conservatives will stick to their plan which is "working". He tells activists that 800,00 fewer people are on the main out-of-work benefits thanks to the Conservatives' welfare reforms. He reiterates policy announcements made this week, including more apprenticeships and a lower benefits cap. The Conservatives are the real party of compassion on social justice, Mr Cameron adds.

     
  87.  
    12:05: Corporate taxes

    David Cameron pledges that a future Conservative government will have the lowest corporate taxes in the G20.

     
  88.  
    12:05: If a selfie isn't possible...
    Audience member taking a picture of David Cameron
     
  89.  
    12:04: Commitments

    David Cameron sets out Conservative commitments for the next five years, including more jobs, help to buy homes, lower taxes - but says these are only possible if the government sticks to its long-term economic plan.

     
  90.  
    12:01: 'Nothing's easy'

    The prime minister says the past four years of government have been about "laying the foundations" for Britain's future growth by steering the economy to recovery - but that the next five years will be about improving people's living standards. It's about "you, and your family - and helping you to get on", he adds. But he warns that nothing comes easy - and says the British public know this.

     
  91.  
    12:00: 'Chance for all'

    I believe in something for something, not something for nothing, David Cameron tells conference. He stresses his deep patriotism and desire to make Britain a place that everyone is proud to call home. This is not just about making the lines on the graph go in the right direction - it is about helping people to live better lives, he adds. A country that rewards hard work, "not a free-for-all, but a chance for all".

     
  92.  
    11:58: Future

    David Cameron says he wants to secure a working majority at the general election, telling conference that entering into coalition with the Lib Dems was not what he wanted to do but what he had to do. He's now setting out his vision for Britain's future.

     
  93.  
    11:57: English devolution

    David Cameron says he has one more task for William Hague - to ensure "fairness" in the UK's constitutional settlement. He says further devolved powers for Scotland must be matched by greater English devolution - and vows English votes for English laws.

     
  94.  
    @toryboypierce 11:57: Andrew Pierce, Journalist

    tweets: Having met Michael Gove's puppy he's right. You would trust it more than Ed Miliband to do down Putin

     
  95.  
    11:57: William Hague laughs at David Cameron's impersonation
    William Hague laughing
     
  96.  
    11:56: Prime mimicker

    David Cameron draws laughter from the crowd as he attempts to impersonate ex-Conservative leader William Hague. He says he owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Mr Hague, who is standing down as an MP at the general election. Activists give Mr Hague a standing ovation.

     
  97.  
    11:56: Jihadists warning

    David Cameron highlights the UK's role in military operations against IS militants in Iraq - and says there is no walk-on-by option. He says the Conservatives will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe. To British nationals who go abroad to jihadist wars in Syria and Iraq, Mr Cameron sends a message: "You are an enemy of the UK and you should expect to be treated as such."

     
  98.  
    11:53: 'Hellish crucible'

    David Cameron tells conference he wants to set out how to build a Britain that "everyone is proud to call home". He pays tribute to UK combat troops in Afghanistan - who are returning from operations at the end of the year. Activists applaud. He goes on to stress the threat posed by Islamist extremism which has found a "hellish crucible" with IS in Iraq.

     
  99.  
    11:52: The cabinet stands to applaud
    The Cabinet applauds David Cameron
     
  100.  
    @janemerrick23 11:51: Jane Merrick, Political Editor of @indyonsunday & columnist for @independent

    tweets: "The run up to that referendum was the most nerve-racking of my life" says Cameron. Good honest admission #cpc14

     

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