Free school meals for Primary 4 children will start in the new school year but Primary 5 pupils will have to wait until January, the Scottish Government has announced.

The free lunch policy will start to be expanded from August and, by the time P5 pupils become eligible, will provide meals to approximately 90,000 children.

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The SNP manifesto pledged free school lunches for all primary pupils if the party was re-elected to government after the Holyrood election in May.

Funding worth £28 million has been agreed for local authorities to provide the free school meals to P4 and P5 pupils during the next school year, in addition to the lunches already provided to all children in P1 to P3.

HeraldScotland:

A further £21.75 million will provide targeted free school meal support during school holidays in 2021-22, starting with the upcoming summer holiday.

The government estimates this will cover approximately 145,000 primary and secondary children from low-income households, with individual councils deciding whether the provision is in the form of direct payments, vouchers or food parcels.

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Confirming the expansion of free school lunches, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Free school meals are a vital support to thousands of children and young people across the country – ensuring that children have access to a free, healthy and nutritious meal every day they are in school and are ready to engage in learning.

“The provision of £49.75 million in new funding to local authorities demonstrates our support for the health and wellbeing of children and young people and our commitment to reduce the impact of poverty on thousands of families across the country.”

Councillor Stephen McCabe, of COSLA, added: “Councils across Scotland have long been committed to delivering healthy free school meals – to eligible children and young people.

HeraldScotland:

“We are pleased that, in partnership with the Scottish Government, this commitment can be further expanded upon by providing free school meals to all Primary 4s in August 2021 and Primary 5s in the latter part of the academic year.

“Local authorities will continue to work hard to ensure that children and young people have access to healthy and nourishing meals so that they are fully able to learn, play, and engage with their peers and communities.”

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When he announced the policy at the SNP conference last year, Deputy First Minister and former education secretary John Swinney pledged that all primary pupils would receive free meals from next year.

But the Scottish Government now says that P6 and P7 pupils will not be able to benefit until August 2022.

A government spokesman added: “The commitment is to roll out universal free school meals to Primary 6 and 7 children by August 2022 and we will be working with our local authority partners over the course of 2021 to deliver this.”