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Lib Dems criticise government cuts to Universal Free School Meals support

February 4, 2016 8:15 PM
Originally published by South Central Region Liberal Democrats

The Government has axed support that helps small schools with 150 pupils or fewer fund universal free meals for infants.

In 2015/6 the money was worth at least £2,300 for these schools.

Universal Free School Meals were a key Liberal Democrat policy delivered in the Coalition Government to provide every infant child in England with a healthy meal at lunchtime, saving families around £437 per child per year.

school meals_no text

The Government has axed support that helps small schools with 150 pupils or fewer fund universal free meals for infants.

Evidence shows that where children have been given a free school dinner, students were months ahead academically of their peers elsewhere. These academic improvements were most marked among children from less affluent families.

There was speculation that the Conservatives were going to cut Universal Infant Free School Meals entirely ahead of the Autumn Statement.

Schools with 150 or fewer pupils were this year given a grant worth £2,300 to help deliver the policy.

Liberal Democrat education spokesperson John Pugh MP said:

"Many schools live with tight budgets and this could threaten the viability of some small rural schools. Whitehall seemd to care about the bottom line rather than helping the most disadvantaged pupils. They need to put attainment before profit.

"It is a horrific decision and it will hurt hundreds of rural communities who deserve better than this."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP, who oversaw the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals, added:

"This will have a big impact on some of the smallest schools across the country. Combined with the Conservatives' decision to impose a real terms cut to schools' budgets it is going to make it even harder for schools to deliver the good quality education their pupils deserve."


Ends

Notes to editors

The gov.uk webpage for Universal Infant Free School Meals website was updated on Friday 29th January, with the note:

"Removed information about the UIFSM support service because it has been discontinued. Added information about the 2016 to 2017 academic year."

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-infant-free-school-meals-guide-for-schools-and-local-authorities#history

The small school allocation grant - worth £2,300 was set out in the 2015-16 guidance here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-infant-free-school-meals-uifsm-funding-allocations-2015-to-2016/universal-infant-free-school-meals-uifsm-conditions-of-grant-2015-to-2016#small-schools-allocation