The Government has today launched free school meals for all children in their first three years of school.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said £1bn would be invested over the next two years along with £150m to help councils and schools pay for new kitchens or increase dining capacity.
Last month the Local Government Association warned councils were being forced to divert funds from school maintenance budgets to meet the free school meals promise. It said that despite assurances the scheme would be fully funded, local authorities short of cash had to find an average of £488,000 each to plug the gap – even with the extra £150m.
An LGA survey found 47% of councils had not received enough money to cover the full cost of providing free school meals, with 37% saying the shortfall would need to come from school funds.
The initiative will see 1.89 million children receive free school meals, saving families an average of £437 per child a year.
Mr Clegg said: ‘This is one of most progressive changes to our school system for a long time so there’ll always be critics but that won’t cloud my goal to create a level playing field for all of our children so their success will be determined by their talents and efforts alone and not by their parents’ bank balance.’