Concern after school meal fund is scrapped
Northumberland County Council has expressed concern over the withdrawal of a Government fund which helps provide free school meals to the county's smallest schools.
The Government last week announced it was stopping its ‘small school funding’ - part of its Universal Free Meal initiative announced in 2014 to provide free school meals to all four to seven-year-olds.
The fund, which has paid out more than £32 million to around 3,000 schools since it was set-up, helped first and primary schools with fewer than 150 pupils ensure they could provide free hot meals for every pupil in reception, year 1 and 2.
In its first year up to £3,000 was made available to smaller schools but this was scaled down to £2,300 last year. Now the scheme is being scrapped altogether from next month.
In Northumberland around 80 schools will be affected by the withdrawing of the fund.
Council Leader Grant Davey said: “This is yet another blow for rural councils - but more importantly it is a blow for hard working parents and the young children at many of our smaller schools.
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“We are doing all we can to create an infrastructure where people want to stay or move into Northumberland but the Government seems intent on making life as difficult as it can for parents who want to raise children here.
“Attacking the delivery of rural services and removing the funding to operate those services may seem like a great sport to this Government - but taking the food from children’s mouths is absolutely deplorable.”
He continued: “School budgets are already under a lot of pressure with rising costs and shrinking budgets.
“Small schools are often especially hard pressed and this cut will be yet another blow to them.”
Despite the withdrawal of the small school funding, schools will continue to receive funding of £2.30 per meal served to children in reception, year 1 and year 2 until at least July 2017.