49% Rise in Free School Meals Eligibility Since 2019   

Commenting on government data showing a rise in the number of children eligible for Free School Meals, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“The number of children eligible for Free School Meals has risen to 1,897,449, an increase of 49% over the 1,270,914 children eligible in 2019. 

“Nearly one quarter of school students (22.5%) are now eligible for free schools meals. 

“These are appalling figures and a clear indication that the cost-of-living crisis is plunging more and more families into desperate straits - the levelling up agenda has so far gone backward. 

“The biggest hindrance to a child succeeding at school is poverty. Our members know all too well the impact poverty has on learning and hunger is one of the worst problems. 

“And there are many other children in our schools who are hungry whose families do not qualify for free school meals. 

“As a first step to address the inequalities faced by children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the NEU is calling for the expansion of the FSM eligibility criteria to also include all families receiving universal credit.  

“For a Government to stand by, when millions of children are going hungry every day, with a school dinner often being the only hot meal they receive, is a record no one can be proud of.” 



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