A headteacher has asked whether the families of students on free school meals can be given supermarket vouchers to make sure they still get fed during any shutdown of schools because of the coronavirus.
Vic Goddard, co-principal of Passmores Academy in Harlow, told Tes he expected schools to be shut for two weeks leading into the Easter holidays and wanted to ensure that students are fed.
He said: “I expect that a decision to close school will taken next Friday or possibly even this Friday, and I want something in place so the funding we get for free school meals is spent on the pupils.
Need to know: Coronavirus school closures
Coronavirus: Cancelled trips may cost schools millions
“I get £2.30 per pupil per day and if we close for 10 days, that is £23. I don’t want that money to be sitting in our account or being clawed back by the local authority – it should be spent on the children.
“I have asked our auditors, the council and the Education Skills and Funding Agency: is there anything to stop us doing this? I know we can’t guarantee that the voucher would be spent on food, but it’s a solution.”
Mr Goddard, who featured on the Educating Essex TV programme, said he had already received a positive response from school leaders after posting the idea on Twitter.
“Schools are trying to come up with answers but, of course, it shouldn’t be down to individual schools to resolve this. There should be guidance on what should happen from the Department for Education but I haven’t seen any yet.”
Glyn Potts, head of the Blessed John Henry Newman RC College in Oldham, replied to the tweet to say his school had given funds to a local food bank.
Heads are discussing what steps they can take to prepare for an expected shutdown of schools.
A children’s charity has warned that vulnerable children will be at risk if they are removed from the safety of school during the coronavirus outbreak.
Coram’s chief executive Carol Homden said this could include temporary school closures and children self-isolating at home.
She said: "For some children, school is an important place of safety as well as an important place of food and care.
"So we all need to consider this very carefully and the whole of our community needs to have all our eyes on all our children."
Commenting on the charity’s comments, a Department for Education spokesperson said: "Advice from Public Health England continues to be for schools to remain open, unless advised otherwise.
"We are continually reviewing how best to support all educational settings and the impact of any measures will be considered carefully before being implemented."