Funding for free school meals for children aged 4 to 7 in York has been slashed by £136,874 in real terms, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.
Universal Infant Free School Meals were introduced by the Liberal Democrats back in 2014, to provide free school meals to all pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2. However since the policy was introduced, the Conservatives have increased funding per pupil by just 4 pence, from £2.30 to £2.34, or an increase of 1.7%.
It comes despite the latest ONS figures showing food prices have soared by 7% since the introduction of this policy.
If funding for infant free school meals for children in reception, year one, and year two had kept up with inflation, it would now be £2.46 per pupil. This amounts to a real-terms cut of £35.8 million this year for the 1.57 million children affected nationally, or £22.80 per child.
The cut could put pressure on school budgets and force schools to fund the additional costs from their own budgets, leaving less money for textbooks, teachers, and catch-up classes.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Lib Dem councillors have ensured that Free School Meals are provided to all eligible children during school holidays, spending £340k of Council funding in the absence of Government support. Families entitled to Free School Meals and who are struggling through the holidays can now apply for food vouchers under a council scheme. More information can be found on the council’s website here: https://www.york.gov.uk/HelpWithFood
Councillor Andrew Waller, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, commented:
“Free school meals were introduced as а way of giving children а healthy lunch every day and saving parents hundreds of pounds а year. However, despite food and ingredient costs rising rapidly by more than inflation, this Government has effectively cut this crucial funding. This will undoubtedly put pressure on school budgets at this already challenging time.
“Ministers must immediately reverse course and provide the аdditionаl funding for free school meals so that schools are not put in a position where they have to come up with the funds from their own budgets, leaving less money for our children’s education and well-being.”