Commenting on today’s announcement from Government, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The NEU is relieved that the Department for Education has clarified that it will meet the full costs incurred by schools for providing Free School Meals and getting them to children who are at home. We hope this will cover any hidden costs that arise as schools work out the best way to operate during shut down.
“We’re pleased that the national portal for schools - with its ability to get gift vouchers to eligible families - is an option for schools, rather than a mandatory model for how to provide school meals. Offering this as an option recognises that many schools have worked so hard to get alternative arrangements in place to cater for their local community. Many schools are advertising free food for any in the local community who are hungry.
“We think central government must work with local authorities to help co-ordinate local information, so that local authorities are not overwhelmed by queries from parents, charities and other agencies.
“It is disappointing that Government has chosen not to make sure that free school meals vouchers are available over the Easter fortnight. This isn’t a normal school holiday and we are asking teachers and support staff to volunteer to work, in support of the NHS. Families on low incomes will need access to school meals during this fortnight, particularly as food banks are seriously overstretched and it is much harder to shop affordably at the moment.
“Recent government statistics showed that 4.2m children are trapped in poverty – this is likely to rise when the current public health crisis subsides. Food vouchers might be the only realistic and manageable intervention for many schools at the moment, but we mustn’t normalise the idea of food provision to poorer families. We must banish food poverty once the health crisis is over, through better wages and secure employment.”
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