We have a guest opinion piece today from Hastings based Recipe For Change regarding the introduction of free school meals.
All infant school children will be given a free school lunch as from September this year which will be part of the Children and Families Bill very shortly. So that means schools are legally bound to provide school meals to all children aged from 4 to 7 which is great news. Providing a hot and healthy school lunch to our children helps improve concentration and attainment.
But is spending £750 million on school meals value for money? We at Recipe for Change think it is because we have spent 10 years making lunchtime better for schools. We know from our work that getting lunchtime right reduces bullying, ensures children are ready for afternoon lessons and critically, makes their all-important social time enjoyable and relaxing. We are in business because all these benefits help schools secure a good or outstanding Ofsted rating.
However, there are some who think this policy is ill conceived and isn’t value for money when you compare it with interventions like Jamie Oliver’s feed me better campaign that helped improve the quality of school meals. Yes Jamie’s campaign was five times cheaper than offering free school meals but there is more to this debate than just feeding our children. As one school said, that is already benefiting from universal free school meals, there are “hidden benefits that help to foster a sense of cohesion within their school. “ This sounds a bit woolly but it refers to the critical important of socialisation which does help our children’s development and has an evidence base.
Research conducted by Ed Baines, Senior Lecturer in Psychology for the Institute of Education says “School lunchtimes provide one of the main opportunities for free social interaction with friends and peers and – worryingly – for some it might be the only time. Despite the huge attention given to incidences of bullying, our surveys of pupil views also show that for the vast majority of children, for the large majority of the time, school lunchtimes are important times for developing relationships and social skills”. http://bit.ly/1ia5QHw
We have set up a blog to support the policy and debate some key issues around the implementation such as capacity in the dining hall and the kitchen and the potential impact on whether or not the academic day needs to be extended. There is another blogger who is fiercely opposing the policy and we are currently debating these issues in our blog comments.
You can find their blog by using this link http://bit.ly/1fhr0RF