Free school breakfasts 'must change', say Conservatives

Infant children queue for lunch
Image caption Free breakfasts are usually offered before the school day starts

A third of Welsh children are not receiving free breakfasts in school and changes are needed, the Conservatives say.

The Welsh government's Free Breakfasts initiative, launched 10 years ago, ensures primary school children can have a healthy meal to start the day.

But shadow education minister Angela Burns said some parents should pay to help improve the scheme's funding.

Education Minister Huw Lewis said take-up of free breakfasts was increasing.

Overall throughout Wales, eight out of 10 (82%) schools in Wales offer free breakfasts, even though it is available to them all.

In Newport, for example, it is around three in 10 schools.

Last year, out of the 264,186 pupils in Welsh primary schools, 46,262 had a free breakfast on the day numbers were collected.

That is fewer than one in five pupils who turned up for the scheme, which usually runs in breakfast clubs before the school day starts.

'Financial contribution'

Ms Burns AM, said it was "regrettable" that after "tens of millions of pounds" a third of Welsh children were not able to access free school breakfasts.

"We believe that parents who can afford to make a small financial contribution towards the cost of their child's free school breakfast should do so to improve the scheme's funding and enable more children to benefit," she added.

But Mr Lewis said take-up of the scheme had consistently been on the increase since the scheme launched in 2004.

"We know that in the last five years alone, around 10 million free and healthy breakfasts have been served to our primary school learners," he said.

In England, every child in primary school gets a free lunch, instead of breakfast.

Aled Roberts, education spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in Wales, said it should be the same in Wales too.

"Despite Scotland having followed England's lead, the Welsh Labour government continues to use free school breakfasts as an excuse not to implement this vital policy," he added.

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