Welsh pupils miss out as all English infants get free school meals

2014 Medi 2 1:58 PM

Kids school mealWelsh infants are missing out on a free hot school meal every day because of the Welsh Labour Government, while their English peers sit down to a free meal every day as they head back to school this week.

Liberal Democrats in Government have introduced free school meals for all pupils aged 4-7 in England, starting with this academic year. The move will save the average family £400 a year per child; a welcome ease to household budgets. This comes as the Liberal Democrats announce this week their manifesto commitment to expand the policy to all primary school pupils.

The Welsh Labour Government has received over £64m over two years as a result of this policy in England, but despite numerous calls from the Welsh Liberal Democrats they have refused to use it to replicate the policy here in Wales. As a result, 103,360 infants in Wales are missing out on a free, healthy school meal. Were the policy extended along the lines of the Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment, 269,421 primary school pupils would benefit.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats' petition calling on the Welsh Labour Government to introduce the policy has already gathered hundreds of signatures. Click here to add your support.

Aled Roberts AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Minister, said:

"Thanks to the Liberal Democrats in Government, all infant pupils in England will be tucking into a free hot and healthy meal at lunchtime. This will help to improve their attainment, end the stigma often attached to free school meals, ensure children can have a healthy and nutritious meal at lunchtime and save parents money.

"In pilots of this scheme, pupils receiving free meals were found on average to be two months ahead of their peers in areas where free school meals were not offered. They also showed how the children's social skills were broadened, and that sitting down for a meal every day helped teach good table manners.

"The Welsh Labour Government has been given money it could use to replicate this excellent policy in Wales, yet Labour have refused to do so.

"Whilst the parents of infant children in Wales will continue to pay £400 a year on school lunches, their English equivalents will get the meal for free. The benefits from guaranteeing a hot, healthy meal for every infant in Wales are clear - so why aren't Labour introducing this policy and helping with the cost of living?"

Click here to sign the petition calling for free school infant meals in Wales.

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