Funding for infant free school meals in Oldham slashed by more than £200,000

The government has slashed funding for free school meals for 4–7-year-olds in Oldham by £212,797 in real terms, shocking new figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed. The party have slammed the government for “short-changing our children.”

Oldham’s Liberal Democrat Leader, councillor Howard Sykes MBE said: “Universal Infant Free School Meals were introduced by the Liberal Democrats, to support all pupils in reception, Year 1 and Year 2. However, since the policy was introduced seven years ago, the Conservatives have increased funding per pupil by just 4 pence, from £2.30 to £2.34, or an increase of 1.7%. Had the funding increased with inflation, it would currently stand at least £2.46 per pupil. This amounts to a real-terms cut of £35.8 million this year across the UK, or £22.80 per child.

Howard Sykes, looking out across Shaw

“Free School Meals are about fairness. A good meal helps children focus in school, saving families money and giving parents peace of mind. The policy has been praised by teachers for improving attainment levels in our schools but clearly the Conservatives have never bought into the idea. This funding cut has left schools in Oldham needing to fund the extra cost from their own budget at a time when food prices continue to rise, leaving less money for textbooks, teachers and catch-up classes.”

Food prices have risen by 7% in the years since free school meals were introduced and are likely to face sharp rises in the months ahead as the cost-of-living crisis continues. Councils are now expected to foot the extra costs for free meals.

Councillor Sykes said, “The Conservatives are hitting free school meals with stealth cuts in the hope that no one will notice. Schools are now looking at cheaper alternatives for things like beef and chicken. The Government has short-changed our children and now the quality of the meals they get at lunchtime is at risk.”

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