Free school meals announcement welcomed

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced that all pupils in infant schools in England are to receive free school meals from September 2014.

The £600m plan applies to every pupil up to year two and will save parents around £400 per child per year. Free school meals will also be extended to cover disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges.

The pledge was made after the Lib Dems struck a deal with the Conservatives allowing them to introduce tax breaks for married couples.

The Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Catholic Education Service (CES) said the free school meals promise was a positive move in tackling food poverty in schools.

Greg Pope, CES Deputy Director said: "Today's announcement will welcomed by teachers, who are reporting an increasing number of children coming to school hungry.

"It will also be a relief for parents, managing tight budgets, and struggling to afford to meet basic living costs. We hope that this move will go some way towards ending the scandal of food poverty in schools."

Helen O'Brien, Chief Executive of CSAN said the change would reduce levels of food poverty and boost educational attainment.

"However, it is important that older children living in poverty are not overlooked," she said.

"CSAN and CES have consistently called for all children from disadvantaged backgrounds to be entitled to free school meals.

"For many families we work with, the entitlement to free school meals is the only way of ensuring that their child has at least one healthy meal a day."