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"

Related Stories

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.


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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Comment number 735.

    completely agree with Joe Bloogs comment

  • rate this

    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

    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

    Comment number 732.

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

  • rate this

    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

    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

    Comment number 729.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Comment number 724.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.


Page 1 of 37


More Politics stories


Politics Live

    08:43: New nuggets Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    Norman Smith says with 100 days to go until the election, the main parties are sticking to the themes they've stuck to for weeks - Labour on the NHS, and Tories on the economy. He says there are a couple of new nuggets from David Cameron though - a hint he's minded to continue protecting pensioner benefits such as bus passes and winter fuel allowances, and a view that Northern Ireland should be included in TV debates.

    08:31: Not no, but not a yes either Nick Robinson Political editor

    Nick Robinson says David Cameron doesn't want to be seen to be saying "no" to the TV debates - but he's not exactly saying "yes" either.

    08:30: Ed Milband on election BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader says "Britain can do a lot better" and his party wants to put working people first. "This is a big election, and I'm going to fight for it," he says.

    08:28: Cameron on TV debates BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says you can't include SNP and Plaid without having parties from Northern Ireland. He says that he initially was making the point that the Greens should take part, but the broadcasters have gone further. He says he had also had concerns about the debates taking place during the election campaign itself - he thinks they dominate the campaign too much.

    08:26: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    Explaining how Labour is going to fund an extra £2.5bn a year across the UK for the NHS, Mr Milband says the party has "very clear plans" to raise the cash - from mansion tax, clamping down on tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms' market share.

    08:23: In quotes: Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today
    David Cameron
    08:20: Miliband on the sofa BBC Breakfast
    Ed Miliband
    08:19: Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    "The PM is wriggling and wriggling to get out of these debates - let's make these debates happen," says Ed Miliband.

    08:16: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Breakfast

    The Labour leader is talking about the NHS again. He tells BBC Breakfast the "iron curtain" between health and social care isn't serving us well. "The NHS has got to start taking an interest in the social care system," he says.

    08:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Radio 4 Today

    David Cameron says that families subject to the existing benefits cap have been more likely to find work than people not hit by the cap. His party is "unashamedly pro-work and pro- people who work hard". The Conservatives are proposing to lower the cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year and use the money saved to boost apprenticeships.

    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: "There's horror and there's hope". @Ed_Miliband speaks movingly of his grandfather who died in a Nazi camp & those who were saved @bbc5live

    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: The most arresting sequence of Ed Miliband's @bbc5live interview was about Labour leader's loss of his grandfather in the Holocaust

    Ed Miliband on TV debates BBC Radio 5 live

    "He gives it the big one about leadership," says Ed Miliband. If so, why is he so scared of the TV debates, the Labour leader asks of David Cameron. Mr Miliband says he'll take part, even if there's an empty chair where the Conservative leader should be.

    08:00: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    He says the NHS is always going to be a priority for Labour and "staff and patients are crying out for a sense of a plan" for it - adding that his party has "the right policy and the right plan".

    07:56: Ed Miliband on NHS BBC Radio 5 live

    Labour leader Ed Miliband there is a "big fight on for the future of the NHS" and that he wants to "rescue" it, not weaponise it.

    07:53: Ed Miliband talking NHS BBC Radio 5 live
    Ed Miliband on 5live
    07:47: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    The shadow health secretary says the country needs to "rethink" the way we care for older people, who are often "trapped" on hospital beds and subject to "flying 15-minute visits" by social care workers on home visits. "We need to support people with dementia and autism as well as those with cancer," he says.

    07:39: Andy Burnham on NHS BBC Radio 4 Today

    Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, tells BBC's Radio 4's Today programme the Labour Party is planning to "re-set" the NHS in England as the "National Health and Social Care Service".

    07:25: David Cameron on election choice BBC Breakfast
    David Cameron

    David Cameron ends his Breakfast appearance by being asked about the lessons for the UK from what has happened in Greece. He says the election choice is "competence with the Conservatives", or "chaos with other options".

    07:24: David Cameron on TV debates BBC Breakfast

    On the subject of TV election debates, Mr Cameron said it was a "good thing" that discussions had been taking place about which parties should be included. Asked if he would take part in the debates if Northern Ireland parties were included, he replied "yes", adding "a deal could be done".

    07:21: David Cameron on apprenticeships BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron says apprenticeships are "very good" options for young people and the overwhelming majority of apprentices get jobs afterwards. The Conservatives are saying that they can create more using money saved by cutting the benefits cap limit.

    07:16: David Cameron on benefits cap BBC Breakfast

    David Cameron tells BBC Breakfast that plans to reduce the benefits cap shows the Conservatives want to build on what he says is a successful policy of getting more people in to work - he says there was criticism in some parts of the country that £26,000 was too high. It's "absolutely crucial" to making sure young people get jobs and build a future for themselves, he says.

    07:13: David Cameron on Breakfast
    David Cameron

    The Prime Minister David Cameron is appearing on BBC Breakfast from Downing Street.

    @bbcnickrobinson Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

    tweets: Significance of today is not that it's 100 days until an election. It's Holocaust Memorial Day - when we pledge 'Never Again' @HolocaustUK

    06:59: Party campaigns Norman Smith BBC Assistant Political Editor

    The Tories are going on about the economy, there is a big push from Labour on the NHS today - I can see this going on right up to polling day. We've seen that the NHS is the number one issue for voters, but it has not yet translated to a lift off for Labour, despite the NHS winter crisis - which suggests the strategy appeals to the traditional Labour vote, but doesn't reach out beyond that.

    06:57: The morning papers

    Meanwhile the Daily Mirror reports a survey which suggests a third of voters haven't made up their minds about how to vote yet.

    Mirror front page
    06:53: The morning papers

    A bit more on how the 100 days to go point is being marked in the papers. With David Cameron and Ed Miliband appearing face-to-face on its front page, the i asks "where are the parties, what are the hot issues?". It also carries a poll suggesting the Tories have taken the lead over Labour.

    I front page
    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: David Cameron is on @bbcbreakfast at 0710 and @BBCR4Today at 0810. Ed Miliband is on @bbc5live at 0750 and @bbcbreakfast at 0810.

    06:42: Breakfast briefing
    Chris Mason on Breakfast

    The two main parties "will be playing their hits today - what they think works with voters", BBC political correspondent Chris Mason tells BBC Breakfast. So Labour's focus is on the NHS and integrating social care. The Conservatives are talking about the economy and the benefits cap - they want to lower the cap and use the money to create more apprenticeships. The Lib Dems and UKIP are both focusing on what impact they might have in partnership with larger parties.

    06:35: The morning papers

    The Daily Telegraph has an interview with David Cameron in which the prime minister pledges to reduce the annual benefits cap to £23,000 as the first act of a new Conservative government - a theme that also features in the Daily Mail.

    Telegraph front page
    06:29: The morning papers

    Most of the papers mark the 100 days to go, with the Sun featuring the faces of readers on its front page and setting out its "Sunifesto" in a special edition, saying there are "100 days to save Britain".

    Sun front page
    06:27: The morning ahead Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    It's an early start for the party leaders with David Cameron and Ed Miliband both appearing on BBC Breakfast and BBC radio between 07:10 GMT and 08:30 GMT. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are also launching an election poster. The economy will take centre stage at 09:30 GMT when the GDP figures are out.

    06:21: Good morning Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online

    Hello and welcome to a fresh day's coverage of political developments ahead of the 7 May General Election - yes there's just 100 days to go now. You'll be able to listen or watch all the BBC's political output today on this page and we'll be bringing you all the best clips, quotes, analysis, reaction and breaking political news throughout the day. If you want to see what to expect, here's yesterday's campaign countdown.



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.