Between £300k and £500k is needed to fund free school lunch scheme

POSITIVE: Emma Bolam

POSITIVE: Emma Bolam

First published in News
Last updated
Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

SCHOOLS still face a shortfall of at least £300,000 to pay for free school lunches less than two weeks before the start of term.

All state-funded schools will have to start serving a hot meal for all pupils under the age of seven from the start of the September term.

The Government has said that this will save parents up to £400 a year in packed lunches.

But Oxfordshire County Council’s education head Melinda Tilley has slammed the scheme, calling it “stupid”, adding that parents will still have to pay for the food.

She said: “They say it will save parents money but who do they think will pay for it through tax? It will cost people money, not save it.”

Across the county, 123 primary schools – 53 per cent – needed new equipment or upgraded kitchen facilities to serve the increased number of hot meals.

The Government gave the council £1.47m to help, but Mrs Tilley said between £300,000 and £500,000 was still needed to complete the work.

She said: “We don’t know yet where the money will come from. We can ask schools for some but that feels unfair to me.

“We could also look at the maintenance budget but that feels unfair too. It will probably have to come from reserves. We don’t know the full extent of it.”

She said: “Giving all children a hot meal in the day is a good idea, but the vast majority of children are well looked after and well cared for and don’t need this.

“I could have spent it 100 different ways which are much better for disadvantaged children.”

Windmill Primary School in Headington has received £50,000 towards upgrading its facilities so it can double the number of hot lunches it serves.

Headteacher Lynn Knapp said: “It looks like over the last week we have had some new ovens and equipment put in.

“In theory we should be in business to cook nearly 400 meals a day in September. I wasn’t confident it was going to happen, so I’m quite pleased.”

But she said: “The money could be better spent. I don’t think all of our children need to have a free school meal. It’s a huge amount of money that could be spent on things they really need.”

Emma Bolam, mum to six-year-old Alex Bolam-Hussain, was looking forward to the scheme starting.

The Blackbird Leys resident, a scientist at Oxford University, said: “It’s great because he tends to eat more.

“The cooked school lunches at Orchard Meadow Primary School are a great alternative to the usual packed lunch.

“The school gives us a termly menu so we can see what our child will be given to eat each day.”

She said that now she no longer had to pay £2 a day for his lunch, she would save £390 a year, adding: “He seems to be eating far better by having cooked school lunches.”

A DfE spokesman: "Providing free school meals will help children do better in school, as well as helping them to eat more healthily while saving hardworking taxpayers up to £400 a year.

"We are pleased that so many local authorities recognise this, and that they are working with schools to make sure that families and children in their communities benefit from the new policy from this September.

"We have provided significant financial support to schools to help them deliver the policy, including over £1 billion over the next two years to pay for the costs of providing the meals. Schools and local authorities have also received additional money to help upgrade facilities and local authorities can decide whether they should top this up from their general maintenance budgets.

"Based on evidence collected from councils and schools themselves, we believe that all schools are on track to deliver free school meals in September. We are continuing to monitor school preparations taking place over the summer holidays and have a free support service in place to help deal with any issues that arise."

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Send your Letter to the Editor

11:20am Monday 28th July 2014

What do you think? We welcome letters from our readers on a wide variety of subjects and you can send us a letter through the blue headline above.

  • Our top stories

Man still fighting for life after Sandford Road bridge fall

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

4:41pm Tuesday 30th September 2014

A man was yesterday still fighting for his life in hospital after falling from a bridge and colliding with a vehicle.

Motorcyclist seriously injured in crash with car near Dorchester

Oxford Mail: Ambulance stock image

11:44am Tuesday 30th September 2014

A MOTORCYCLIST has been taken to hospital with serious injuries after a crash with a BMW.

Dismal start troubles Appleton

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 30th September 2014

Oxford United’s position in the table is now a concern for head coach Michael Appleton, who has acknow-ledged it is taking longer than expected to improve results.

Derek Measor's wife says his death tore her world apart as killer driver avoids jail

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 30th September 2014

A WIDOW whose husband was killed while cycling yesterday told a court it was the worst day of her life.

Girls get some coaching from a top GB runner

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Tuesday 30th September 2014

PUPILS at d’Overbroecks College pulled on their running shoes yesterday as 2002 Commonwealth Games 400m relay silver medallist Lesley Owusu gave them advice on how to succeed in both sport and life.

Rethink on late-night drink levy

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Tuesday 30th September 2014

BARS and clubs in Oxford could soon be charged for serving alcohol after midnight.



Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree