More primary children to receive universal free school meals

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Primary school pupils in Southwark and Tower Hamlets are to benefit from free school meals, regardless of their household income.

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From this month, all Southwark primary school pupils will be offered a free school dinner as the council extends its Free Healthy School Meals (FHSM) programme.

Southwark Council piloted its FHSM programme with a small number of schools in 2011, before rolling it out to all primary school children in years two, three and four last September.

The extension to the programme to all primary pupils will see more than 21,000 children benefit from a daily free school dinner.

Tower Hamlets Council has also introduced universal free school meals. The council announced yesterday that 3,943 reception and year one children attending 74 schools will be offered free school meals over the next two academic years.

In March, Tower Hamlets Council agreed the £2.76m investment to fund free schools meals for its youngest pupils.

Speaking at the launch of the free school meals initiative at Bygone Primary School in Poplar, the mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman said, 'I am determined to do all I can to improve educational achievement and opportunities for young people in Tower Hamlets and we know that a healthy lunch is one of the keys to children learning better.

'I am proud we are one of those local authorities leading the way on this issue.'

The London councils are just a handful of local authorities to introduce universal free school meals.

Islington Council took the decision to fund free school meals for all primary and nursery school children in 2010. More than 85 per cent of children are now taking advantage of the offer.

A campaign calling for universal school meals to be included in all local authority manifestos for the next year and the Labour manifesto for 2015, is expected to be launched later this month.

Led by Islington councillor Richard Watts, London Assembly member Fiona Twycross, and the president of the GMB union Mary Turner, the campaign is reported to have the backing of Sharon Hodgson, shadow minister for education, and a number of children’s charities.

It follows a recommendation within the School Food Plan in July, commissioned by the Government, that free school meals should be extended to all primary school children.

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