Borders tucks in to free school meals pilot

2nd November 2007 at 00:00
A council whose primaries are taking part in the free school meals pilot has had to employ more than 20 new members of staff and invest in everything from freezers to additional knives and forks.

Scottish Borders Council has traditionally had a low up-take of free school meals - a third of pupils entitled to meals claim - but as of the end of last month, in its primaries, the council is expecting a surge in interest. It predicts that, due to the universal free school meal pilot for P1-3 pupils, uptake in primary schools will increase by over 50 per cent, requiring an additional 1,761 meals to be prepared every day.

This, the council admits, will pose "significant challenges", mainly in relation to the additional equipment and personnel needed to cater for the rise in demand. In total, the council estimates that the pilot will cost them pound;657,000, most of which was supplied by the Scottish Government.

Borders is one of five councils taking part in the six-month free school meals pilot. The others are East Ayrshire, Fife, Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire.

The project has come in for criticism from children's charities who say six months is not long enough to gauge the impact of free school meals. However, Adam Ingram, the Children and Early Years Minister, has said if the pilot is a success the Government will consider making free school meals available to all Scottish children in early primary, costing up to pound;46 million - a move that would involve the purchase of a considerable number of knives and forks, if Borders is anything to go by.

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