The children missing out on free school meals

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMany pupils lose their credit for free school meals if it is not spent on the given day.

Is it just possible that thousands of pupils eligible for free school meals are missing out on their allowance because of an unintended consequence of the policy?Missing out on free school meals? And that with a simple bit of software costing £250, schools can re-direct huge sums of money back to some of the hungriest pupils?

This is a story that is not on the media beat at all. But when I heard about it, I was intrigued.

Most policies have inefficiencies and unintended consequences. Quite often there is a simple fix. Pupils in the North East of England flagged up that many of them who are eligible for free school meals were missing out, simply because their allowance was either restricted to being spent on a hot lunch, or didn't carry over to the next day.

When the chief executive of Carmel Academy, in Darlington, discovered what was happening, she changed the system. Some other schools are also tweaking the software.

The net effect? Potentially significant sums of taxpayer money intended for the hungriest and neediest pupils will now stay with the children instead of going to the providers.

My report on BBC Breakfast this morning was produced by Elizabeth Needham-Bennett.

I usually write about the media. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook; and subscribe to The Media Show podcast from Radio 4.

Related Topics