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MSPs face pressure to provide free meals for schools

Fresh pressure is being placed on Scottish ministers to provide free meals to all Scottish primary school pupils in primaries 1 to 3 next year.

Children in Scotland, Children 1st, Save the Children, One Parent Families Scotland and the Child Poverty Action Group have joined the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), STUC, UNISON and the Church of Scotland in calling for Scotland to follow the lead shown by Westminster.

The call follows last month's Autumn Statement announcement that the Scottish Government is to receive £308 million extra spending as a consequence of the commitment south of the Border that all pupils in the first three years of English primary school will get a free school lunch from September 2014.

In a letter to Education Secretary Michael Russell the organisations say prioritising investment in a free healthy school lunch for pupils in P1 to P3 would provide a "direct and immediate boost to the wellbeing of children and families across Scotland".

The signatories, who also include Shelter and the Poverty Alliance, added: "a universal approach in the early years has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on the take up of healthy school lunches, on children's readiness to learn and attainment, and on supporting family budgets and home life".

A universal approach to free school meals in P1 to P3 was announced by the Scottish Government in 2007 and reaffirmed in 2010 following successful pilots across five Scottish local authorities. Councils were later given flexibility on how they rolled out the commitment. However, to date, no local authority has implemented the policy in full.

In response to a previous letter from the organisations, the Education Secretary said the UK government had not provided confirmation of consequential funding arising from the its own free school meals commitment, and that only when Scotland's finances are reavealed in the Autumn Statement could they see how to roll out free meals.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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