Despite recent media speculation to the contrary, I can assure you the Prime Minister has publicly stated his commitment to Free School Meals in England. This is something we committed to clearly in our manifesto and I am very proud that this important scheme will continue.
Every child in the first three years of school is eligible for a free school meal. This will help pupils from every background get the best possible start in life and I am glad these children will be able to sit down to a healthy lunch with their classmates.
Pilot studies showed that where children were given free school meals on top of the academic there were social benefits such as pupils sitting down together and learning table manners including using cutlery effectively; sharing of similar foods regardless of background helping foster a sense of cohesion. Children were also more likely to eat vegetables rather than unhealthy snacks.
Over £1 billion has been provided by the Government to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years and £150 million of capital has been made available to schools and local authorities to help build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary. A further £22.5 million has been provided specifically to help smaller schools provide free school meals and a dedicated support service has also been set up to offer advice and help.
The legislation introducing universal free school meals for infants can be extended to include additional year groups in future, meaning this is an area that can be kept under review going forward.