As coronavirus school closures loomed, one of the key questions for schools – and one of the biggest issues that education secretary John Swinney was worried about – was how to ensure that free school meals continued and that children did not go hungry.
Now, on the first day of the mass school closures designed to stem the spread of coronavirus, Tes Scotland has looked at the plans being put in place by around half of the 32 Scottish councils.
They show that the vast majority of councils are planning to maintain access to free meals by allowing pupils and families to pick up lunches either from designated hubs or their own school, over lunchtime.
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Only one of the local authority plans examined by Tes Scotland also involved providing breakfast at these times. West Lothian Council said on its website that from 12pm-2pm all children entitled to free meals would be able to collect a packed lunch and cereal – or a cereal bar – from all secondary schools and 20 of the authority’s primary schools.
Coronavirus school closures
Meanwhile, Glasgow City Council plans to provide parents in receipt of clothing grants with a £20 voucher for supermarket Farmfoods per child per fortnight. These will be posted out to home addresses.
What a week! Today we collected 20,000 pre-paid Farmfoods cards with another 12,000+ to come - they will be posted out to all families in @GlasgowCC in receipt of clothing grants next week to help at this difficult time pic.twitter.com/1o4lclZUv8— Maureen McKenna (@maureen0207) March 20, 2020
In Renfrewshire, the parents of children who qualify for a clothing grant will receive a fortnightly payment direct to their bank account of £11.25 per child per week in place of the free meals typically provided by schools.
City of Edinburgh Council also plans to provide “a fortnightly electronic payment during term time and the Easter holidays equivalent to the cost of a school meal”.
How free school meals will continue during these unprecedented times has been hotly debated.
The Scottish Greens put forward a suggestion that librarians, leisure centre staff and school staff impacted by closures – and working alongside the Royal Mail – should provide direct delivery of free meals.
In the Scottish Parliament last week, the Greens' education spokesman, Ross Greer, said that in “chaotic households...barriers to feeding children are more than just financial”. He added that direct delivery would be essential for some children and families