JUST half of Bournemouth’s primary schools are in a position to offer free hot school lunches to young pupils from September, it has been confirmed.
Twelve schools will start the new school year by offering free packed lunches to children in reception, year one and year two. For most, this will be a temporary measure although four schools have decided not to offer hot meals at all.
The policy was announced by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg at his party’s conference in 2013, when he said infant school pupils would get a “hot, healthy lunch” every day from September 2014.
The requirement for it to be a hot meal was later dropped, with the Department for Education instead stating that meals need only be “nutritious.”
In response to a Freedom of Information request, Bournemouth council confirmed all schools had incurred costs to implement the policy.
Dorset County Council said their latest information indicated that Christchurch Infants, Mudeford Infants, Rushcombe First School and Charminster St Mary’s would not be in a position to serve hot lunches from September.
The same request to the Borough of Poole resulted in the council saying we would have to contact every school individually to find out what types of meals they planned to serve from September.
Deputy Leader Cllr Nicola Greene, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have been working closely with Bournemouth schools to help them get ready for the new free school meals initiative.
“Whilst this is a big change and been very challenging for some of the schools to accommodate they are all working hard to meet this target.
“Building work has taken place and is ongoing in some schools to increase the capacity of their kitchen facilities whilst others have had to buy new equipment.
“All of this takes time, but I am pleased to say that every infant school pupil in Bournemouth who are eligible will be offered either a hot or cold nutritious meal at lunchtime from September.”
A DfE spokesperson said: "Free school lunches for all infant children will save parents money and have a positive impact on educational attainment, health and behaviour.
"According to evidence collected from councils and schools themselves, more than 99% of schools are on track to be serving healthy, nutritious and free meals in September.
"We are continuing to monitor school preparations taking place over the summer and have a free support service in place to help deal with any issues that arise.
"Our expectation is that the overwhelming majority of schools will be offering hot meals. Where schools cannot serve hot meals straight away, we expect them to work towards doing so as soon as possible."
The situation in Bournemouth
The following schools will not be providing free hot lunches to all key stage one pupils from September 2014:
- Christ the King – packed lunches for first half term until works completed
- Corpus Christi – mix of hot and packed lunches for first term until works completed
- Hill View – packed lunches for first half term until works completed
- Kingsleigh – packed lunches until end of September until works are completed
- Muscliff – packed lunches only will be offered by the school
- Pokesdown – packed lunches for first half term until works completed
- St Clement’s and St John’s – packed lunches for first half term until works completed
- St Katharine’s – packed lunches only will be offered by the school
- St Mark’s – packed lunches for first half term until works completed
- Stourfield infant – packed lunches only will be offered by the school
- Epiphany – packed lunches only will be offered by the school
- Winton – packed for first half term until works completed