Free school meals: are the right children getting served?

Sep 16, 2014 by

At St Mary Redcliffe primary school in Bristol, headteacher Emma Payne is on lunch duty. She’s got a new kitchen extension, a load of shiny cooking kit – the oven cost £6,000, she whispers – and is supervising children choosing from chicken stew, baked potatoes and ratatouille, or tuna and vegetable wraps.

It has not been a smooth ride. A single project manager at the council was responsible for 60 kitchen refurbishments so was rarely able to oversee the build. This meant her site manager, Chris Parkes, had to come in at weekends over the summer to coordinate five different contractors. Fortunately, given some hiccups along the way including a defrosting fridge destroying the kitchen floor, Parkes is a calm man. “It’ll be nice when it’s finished,” he says with a twinkle.

What sort of difference does Payne think the free dinners will make to her infant pupils? “I don’t know yet,” she says. “I don’t know how many will take it up.” Not all the reception children have started yet but today, just over half of years 1 and 2 have opted for a free meal – there are still lots of packed lunches being eaten at separate tables. It’s not quite the communal eating idyll envisaged by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

The Guardian has followed this school in its eight-month journey from having no idea how to get enough food cooked to unveiling the new kitchen. Its catchment covers a deprived area, and Payne believes the hot breakfasts that she’s using pupil premium money to pay for at the breakfast club will have greater benefits than a free lunch for just three year groups.

“I’m more interested in the hot breakfasts than this,” she says, “because frankly, they all get a dinner anyway. If a child forgets their dinner we make sure they get fed, and if they’re sent in with a packed lunch that isn’t enough, we make sure it’s topped up. But some of these children will definitely not get breakfast at home. And this morning, we were able to give them beans on toast.”

via Free school meals: are the right children getting served? | Education | The Guardian.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts