School meals

The software tweak that solved a school dinner problem

Amol Rajan

Media editor

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?

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.

Watch my report on how the chief executive of Carmel Academy in Darlington found a solution.

The campaign to roll-over free school meal credit
The campaign to roll-over free school meal credit
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?

The campaign to roll-over free school meal credit
A grassroots campaign, led by school pupils in Darlington, has gone UK-wide. Its aim: to make sure that children entitled to free school meals are able to use their full allowance. Pupils in North East England spoke out because those on free school meals who didn’t spend their allowance at lunchtime on a particular day weren’t allowed to carry the money over. As a result, many have had to choose between extra-curricular activities and a hot meal at lunch – whereas pupils who get the money from their parents do get to carry it over. After installing a piece of software for £250, Carmel Academy in Darlington has delivered £17,000 worth of free school meals back to the neediest pupils in the past year. Now they want others around the country to follow their lead.
Child lifts an apple

Robbie Meredith

BBC News NI Education Correspondent

A report also recommends a free meal every day for all children in the first three years of school.

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