Better food for learning

2nd December 2005 at 00:00
A "Jamie Oliver" injection of cash to improve school dinners in Wales will also boost learning, say the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

It comes as opposition parties celebrate clinching more money for closure-threatened small schools, school dinners and higher education, in a deal with the minority Labour government over next year's budget.

Included in revised draft plans for 2006-7 are a pound;4.1 million fund to prop up small schools, more than pound;3m for healthier food and pound;5m to help plug the funding gap between English and Welsh universities. A cross-party team of Assembly members negotiated a new-look budget agreement for 2006-7 this week after throwing out the government's original plans in October.

Peter Black, Lib Dem chair of the Assembly's education and lifelong learning committee, said: "The money will compensate for not having Jamie Oliver in Wales and will mean an increase in the use of seasonal, unprocessed and organic food for school meals."

Lib Dem leader Mike German said teachers, schools and colleges in Wales were the big winners in the new budget plans. Plaid Cymru's shadow education minister, Janet Ryder, said the small school support fund would help local authorities in Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire.

She said the money could allow a change of heart when deciding the fate of struggling small schools in rural localities.

Wales has a far higher proportion of small schools, defined as 90 pupils or fewer, and falling rolls are adding to the pressures on LEAs to reduce surplus places.

Opposition members united after claiming the Assembly had its priorities wrong in budget plans for the next financial year - especially in education.

It originally set aside pound;1553m for education and learning in 2006-7.

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