Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announces that every child in reception, years 1 and 2 in state-funded schools will benefit from a free school meal from September 2014.
Evidence shows that performance in class improved if a healthy meal is eaten at lunchtime:
- students were found to be on average 2 months ahead of their peers elsewhere
- the universal entitlement pilot led to around a 2 percentage point increase in children reaching target levels in maths and English at Key Stage 1; while at Key Stage 2 the impact on achievement was a 4 percentage point increase for English and 5.5 percentage points for maths
- academic improvements were most marked among children from less affluent families
- there was a 26 percentage point increase in the number of children eating vegetables at lunch and an 18 percentage point drop in those eating crisps
To ensure schools have the capacity to provide the extra meals the government is providing £150 million to help schools expand their kitchen and dining facilities, where needed.
The funding will be delivered through local authorities for maintained schools, based on the number of infant pupils they have. The portion for academies will be delivered through the Academies Capital Maintenance Fund, again based on numbers of infant pupils, to which academies may bid for improvement works.
The number of all children currently eligible to receive a free school meal is 1.3 million, of which 367,000 infants are currently eligible. From September 2014, 1.55 million more infants will be able to benefit from a free school meal.
Each local authority will decide how best to target its share of the £150 million for expanding and improving facilities at individual schools in order to deliver the universal entitlement.