Anti-poverty campaigners welcome free school meals move

SNP pledge would make Scotland the first UK nation to offer free school meals to all primary children

Tes Reporter

The SNP has pledge to offer free school meals to all primary pupils

Anti-poverty groups have described a move to offer free school meals to all primary pupils as "massively welcome".

The SNP will provide free breakfasts and lunches to all primary school children in Scotland all year round if re-elected next May, education secretary John Swinney has promised.

The policy would be implemented from August 2022, making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals.

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In response, the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland tweeted that the "universal free school meal promise" was "massively welcome".

A note of caution was sounded by Aberlour Child Care Trust, however, which tweeted that it was "a welcome commitment" but that "we also need commitments to get money directly into the pockets of struggling families".

Pledge of free school meals for all primary pupils

Mr Swinney, in an address to the SNP conference on Saturday, told attendees at the online event: “Just as we extended free meals through the holidays this year and next, if re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.”

Mr Swinney, who is also Scotland’s deputy first minister, said the coronavirus pandemic had “shown us just how little financial security some families have”.

He spoke about the plight of “families not entitled to many benefits, families in work”, saying that “they are already hard-pressed and Tory austerity will hit them harder”.

While he said the Scottish government had acted – citing the introduction of next year’s £10 a week Scottish Child Payment to poorer families – he also said more must be done.

He told the conference that if re-elected in May, the SNP would make free breakfasts and lunches available to “all primary school pupils,” underlining that this would apply to “all classes, all year round”.

Mr Swinney said: “That is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty.”

All children in Scotland are currently offered free school meals for the first three years of primary school.

The promise comes as Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford continues his efforts to lobby the UK government to extended the provision of free meals in England.

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