Lib Dems criticise government cuts to Universal Free School Meals support

Nick Clegg MP and local councillors have spoke out against government cuts to free school meals funding for small schools.

The Government has axed support that helps small schools with 150 pupils or fewer fund universal free meals for infants. In 2015/6 the money was worth at least £2,300 for these schools.

Many small rural schools, such as Bradfield Dungworth Primary School in Sheffield Hallam constituency, live with tight budgets and could be seriously affected.

Universal Free School Meals were a key Liberal Democrat policy delivered in the Coalition Government to provide every infant child in England with a healthy meal at lunchtime, saving families around £437 per child per year.

Evidence shows that where children have been given a free school dinner, students were months ahead academically of their peers elsewhere. These academic improvements were most marked among children from less affluent families.

There was speculation that the Conservatives were going to cut Universal Infant Free School Meals entirely ahead of the Autumn Statement.

Schools with 150 or fewer pupils were this year given a grant worth £2,300 to help deliver the policy.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Stannington Ward Vickie Priestley said:

“This decision will unfairly impact of rural communities. I hope the government reconsider these cuts.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg, who oversaw the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals, added:

“This will have a big impact on some of the smallest schools across the country. Combined with the Conservatives’ decision to impose a real terms cut to schools’ budgets it is going to make it even harder for schools to deliver the good quality education their pupils deserve.”


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