UK

Free school meal pledges as SNP and Labour promise to tackle poverty – Evening Express

Nicola Sturgeon is pledging free school breakfasts and lunches to all primary school pupils in Scotland.

The SNP leader’s proposal follows suggestions by Education Secretary John Swinney late last year. The policy could save families hundreds of pounds a year if it’s expanded from the current arrangement to cover children aged four to seven in P1-3.

Ms Sturgeon announced the details one day after Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar proposed extra help with free meals during summer holidays for primary and secondary pupils.

Ms Sturgeon said: “All children in primaries one to three already benefit from access to free school meals, saving families around £400 per child per year. But if re-elected, we will go much further.

“An SNP government will provide free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil in Scotland, all year round, and for all children in state-funded special schools in Scotland. This will eventually save them an estimated £650 a year per child.”

‘Holiday hunger’

There will also be plans to pilot free school breakfasts in secondary schools, which the party hopes will lead to a universal breakfast provision rolled out for older pupils.

Ms Sturgeon also had praise for Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford who successfully lobbied the UK Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy in England.

On Wednesday, Mr Sarwar said up to 700,000 children would benefit from free means if they are available across primary and secondary school pupils.

Labour says its proposal would tackle “holiday hunger” while giving older pupils the same opportunities as their younger counterparts to access support to recover from the pandemic.

Mr Sarwar said his policy of extending free meal entitlement to high school pupils would cost around £4.5 million a year, with take-up expected to be roughly 10% of pupils.

He said: “This pandemic has thrown the existing inequalities in our society into sharp relief. Around a quarter of children in Scotland live in relative poverty – that is a scandal.”

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