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Data suggests over 400,000 more pupils now eligible for free school meals

The Labour party claims data indicates the Covid 19 crisis has lead to more than 400,000 additional pupils now being eligible for free school meals.

Data covering the period between March and October last year indicates that over 11,000 children became eligible for free school meals each week over that period.

Kate Green, the shadow education secretary has called upon the government to extend free school meals during the forthcoming half term holiday and into the Summer holiday if necessary. At present the government’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme  only covers part of the Summer break.

Green said ‘“Feeding children is not a half-time activity….. Labour is calling on the Conservatives to trust parents with the money for free school meals so they can buy the food and supplies their children need throughout the whole of the holidays.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union said “Over 400,000 children growing up in families with such low incomes they are reliant on free school meals does not sound like a country ‘levelling up’. We urge government to act immediately to ensure that no child misses a meal during the school holidays.”

A government spokesperson said that Healthy Start food vouchers for families had been increased by more than a third and that an “expanded Holiday Activities and Food programme, will continue to run this summer and Christmas in every local authority in England.”