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Food for the tummy ... and for the brain

October 31, 2020 11:37 AM

Kent County Council is being urged to commit to providing free school meals in all school holidays as a way of tackling not just hunger in poorer children, but also to help improve their success in learning at school.

Around 50,000 children in Kent are entitled to get free school meals, but around one in five do not claim them. These children are missing out not just on a good meal, but also on money for their school learning. A child registered to receive free school meals also benefits from a much less well known annual payment of around £1,300 per primary pupil, and over £900 per secondary pupil, known as the Pupil Premium. Paid for by Government direct to the schools, it is aimed at giving extra help with school work to children from poorer families. It can help provide computers, books or trips out which parents might not be able to afford. Trudy

The latest row which forced KCC to a U-turn on free school meals in holidays has sparked a surge in parents registering their children for the vouchers. Over 30,000 claims have already been registered in the first four days from the 50,000 eligible children since KCC began offering the holiday vouchers. New claimants will now also become eligible for Pupil Premium money, to help them speed up their learning in school.

KCC's Lib Dem Group Education Spokesperson Trudy Dean says, "This must not be a one-off flash in the pan. KCC and Government need to commit to a free school meals scheme for all school holidays. This will encourage more parents to apply for the vouchers, and the Pupil Premium learning grant that comes with it.

"Food for the tummy and food for the brain .... what's not to like?"

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The Kent FSM Scheme

KCC is using £700,000 of Government funding to get emergency help to needy families over half-term. A £15 voucher for Tesco or Asda can be claimed by personal shoppers (not online) for the October half term holiday week for every child entitled to free school meals. It must be claimed by 5pm on Monday 2nd November.

30,000 people out of 50,000 entitled to claim have already applied for their vouchers in the first four days of the scheme. If you have not yet registered your child for free school meals at their own school, you can do so via this website or helpline where they can advise you if your child is entitled to get the vouchers. It depends on which benefits you are receiving. Go to www.kent.gov.uk/freeschoolmealsor call the dedicated helpline on 03000 41 24 24.

Meanwhile, the KentTogether helpline remains open for any other Kent resident who needs support with food, collection of medication and prescriptions and other urgent needs during the pandemic, 24 hours a day. You can get help by visiting www.kent.gov.uk/kenttogether or calling 03000 41 92 92.

KCC Select Committee on Pupil Premium (2018)

The Committee made 10 recommendations to the County Council. Recommendation 1 stated that "KCC's Directorate for Children, Young People and Education should .............. promote Free School Meal registrations and Pupil Premium take-up."

"It is estimated that, nationally, around 200,000 children aged 4-15 are entitled to Free School Meals, but are not claiming them. This represents approximately 14% the total number of pupils who are entitled to Free School Meals." Ibid, para 2.3.2.

The full report may be found here: www.kent.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/82043/Pupil-Premium-report.pdf