Ever since school closures were first mooted in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus, a major concern for teachers and heads has been how disadvantaged pupils will continue to access free school meals.
Now, in the wake of the announcement that Scottish schools will close on Friday, the Scottish Green party is suggesting that workers from libraries, leisure centres and schools closed as a result of the outbreak should be used to deliver free school meals directly to the homes of disadvantaged children.
The party argues that proposals involving pupils continuing to come to a central location to receive their meals “go some way towards negating the purpose and effect of school closures and should be avoided if at all possible”.
But the Greens say that by redeploying staff from workplaces hit by closure – at the same time as taking advantage of the Royal Mail’s offer to become an additional emergency service – the government could create a meals-on-wheels service for school dinners.
Coronavirus forces school closures
Staff from pubs and restaurants affected by the new social distancing guidance could also be drafted in to cover for absent catering staff, it adds.
We've just sent outline proposals for a home-delivered free school meals service to the Scottish Government.— Ross Greer (@Ross_Greer) March 18, 2020
It's essential that our most vulnerable children are fed during this crisis. Here's what we've proposed:https://t.co/F0dADVpdrM
The proposal states: “Council staff from suspended services such as libraries, leisure centres and schools themselves could be redeployed to help with distribution and delivery. These staff will hold PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) scheme memberships, negating potential safeguarding issues with delivering food directly to children, particularly when some older children will be at home alone during the day"
It continues: “The Royal Mail has offered the UK government its services as an additional emergency service. RM has a fleet of vehicles and staff with deep local knowledge and could supplement local authority resource in both the transportation of staff and the delivery of meals."
The proposal says in more remote situations it may be more effective to deliver batches of frozen meals or other longer-lasting options. However, it adds that “this would require communication with parents/carers to confirm that there is capacity within the household, for example to freeze large batches of meals”.
Today, the Scottish government announced that schools would close at the end of this week.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said she could not guarantee schools would return after the Easter break and that the closure could last up until the summer holidays.
Tomorrow, education secretary John Swinney is expected to update the Scottish Parliament on plans to minimise the impact of the closures on pupils sitting exams, key medical workers, and vulnerable pupils.