Joanne McCartney, London’s deputy mayor for children and families, said the city hall does not have sufficient resources to provide free school meals to secondary students and that the government should pay for it.
The government defended its record on providing free school meals, saying it had expanded eligibility for it more than any other government in the last half century.
Mr Khan announced in February this year that he would offer free school meals to all London primary school pupils throughout the 2023/24 school year, but could only do this for one year – arguing that the Government should cover the costs after that point.
The government was already providing free school meals for all children from year two across England. After the second year, the government will only provide lunch to children from households receiving certain benefits.
Ms McCartney said of the response to the town hall’s free school meals scheme: “It has been overwhelmingly positive. The education sector is just very grateful that the mayor is putting money into this policy and of course it is popular with Londoners too.”
She pointed out that free school meals for children up to a certain age are already being offered in primary schools across Wales and Scotland.
“Hopefully there is a wealth of evidence to support that [the UK] “The government is a really good and popular policy, but in the long run it is also economically justified,” she said.
However, when asked whether the town hall would provide support at the secondary level, the deputy mayor said: “The mayor is able to do this because there was additional money from the business tax rates that he was able to use for this.”
“The [primary schools] Here we feel that we can do more for children. Of course we think the government should consider funding in the longer term [meals for] all children.
“We know that some districts are currently considering testing this in London, so I think it is important that we look at the results from these districts and the evidence they receive from them.”
Tower Hamlets Council, led by mayor Luftur Rahman and his left-wing Aspire party, this year became the first local authority in England to offer free school meals until the end of Year 11.
Labour-run Westminster City Council now provides meals up to and including Year 9 – as well as for three and four-year-olds in the borough’s nurseries.
Asked whether City Hall would consider providing meals to secondary schools in the absence of government action, Ms McCartney said: “That’s something we think the Government should be thinking about.”
“I think that the mayor’s funding framework is only enough for primary school children at the moment.”
A government spokeswoman responded: “More than a third of pupils in England now receive free school meals in education, compared to one in six in 2010, and we have extended eligibility to more groups of children several times in the last six months than any other government.” …
“We are providing record-breaking financial support worth an average of £3,300 per household. We have also increased benefits in line with inflation, increased the national living wage and are helping households with food, energy and other vital costs.”
The deputy mayor was speaking during a visit to the town hall at Sacred Heart RC Primary School in Battersea.
Also present was Zack Polanski, deputy leader of the Green Party and a member of the London Assembly’s Cost of Living Working Group – a cross-party cohort set up to examine the impact of the crisis on Londoners.
“It’s really clear that universal free school meals have been warmly welcomed by schools,” Polanksi said.
“It is important that not every child goes to school hungry and makes it through the day. There is also a lot of evidence that a nutritious meal is crucial to ensuring that a young person can be in an environment where they are well supported and learn.”
He added that the group will likely make recommendations to the mayor on additional measures he can take to reduce the cost of living.
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/free-schools-meals-london-secondary-schools-sadiq-khan-government-joanne-mccartney-b1106572.html The deputy mayor confirms there are no plans to introduce free school meals in secondary schools in London