The Tories’ Cuts to Free School Meals and the Pupil Premium
Today in Parliament there will be a debate in Westminster Hall on future entitlement to free school meals and the pupil premium.
The Government’s is due to lay out legislation in the coming weeks which would seek to introduce an earnings threshold for families entitled to free school meals, with families with one child and with incomes of more than £7400 not being entitled to free school meals.
This would lead to approximately 1 million children below the poverty line being denied free school meals, and according to some analysis would leave only children from the poorest 20% of households being entitled to free school meals.
This comes amid the government having frozen funding for the pupil premium, the additional funding for pupils from the lowest income backgrounds. Funding for the pupil premium is now falling far behind inflation, by next year this will amount to a £150 million shortfall on top of the other cuts to school funding.
The changes to free school meals could see the number of children in poverty being denied free school meals rise from around 1 million to around 2 million. This would see over 54% of children living in poverty being denied access to free school meals.
Since 2013, the UK Government has allowed all claimants on Universal Credit access to free school meals. Labour want to see this continue to be the case, but have also pledged to provide free school meals for all primary school children.
The Child Poverty Action Group are among a large number of organisations who have highlighted that when free school meals are not provided to all the recipients tend to face stigma. Because of this it is likely that thousands of children are not taking up their free meal entitlement due to stigma around claiming benefits.
That’s why the next Labour government will give all primary school children access to free school meals, funded by introducing VAT on private school fees.