Fears for future of free school lunches in Tower Hamlets

School lunches in Tower Hamlets may be under threat     Pic: Laura Taylor

This week Theresa May made a major concession on schools by offering a £4billion cash injection to reverse planned budget cuts.

Under plans announced in the Conservative manifesto, a financial rise for every year of the parliament in addition to current spending plans was guaranteed to schools, resulting in no loss to them due to the recent ruling implemented in 2018/19.

Senior Tory sources said they have taken into account teacher concerns about rising salaries, pension and national insurance contributions and inflations, and the money will help them cope with “some of the pressures”, reported the London Evening Standard.

These changes will be partly funded by scrapping free lunches for over 6,000 school children, causing outrage among the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems originally introduced free school lunches for pupils from reception to Year 2, which cost the Government £600million a year, while the Party was part of the coalition Government.

Instead, the Tories propose a free breakfast for every child at a cost of around £60million a year.

They say an Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Endowment Foundation pilot found breakfast has the same effect as lunch on pupil outcome.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said yesterday that they are not convinced universal free school meals boosted attainment. He said: “Targeted breakfast provision is likely to have a much greater impact.”

The changes would cost families an average extra £480 a year for every child. The Conservatives are also proposing to make older people pay for social care costs from the value of their own homes when they die. This means on average, families in Tower Hamlets would expect to see 77.5 per cent of the value of their home spent on care costs.

Poplar and Limehouse Liberal Democrat candidate Elaine Bagshaw, commented: “This Conservative manifesto shows the nasty party is back and is nastier than ever. Theresa May is snatching meals away from thousands of children in Tower Hamlets.

“This is on top of the average family’s grocery bill already rising by £500 a year due to the drop in sterling and wage freezes, because of business uncertainty around Brexit,” Bagshaw added.

“How much more do the Conservatives think the average working family’s budget can take, especially here in Tower Hamlets where child poverty is already the highest in the country? As reported before by EastLondonLines, 44 per cent of children in the borough were living in poverty in 2015 – four per cent higher than any other local authority in the country.

“The Liberal Democrats will offer a brighter future by extending free school meals to all primary schools. If elected, I will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain, protecting those who need the most help and fighting for more funding for our schools and hospitals.”

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