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Free School Dinners in Danger of Being Served-Up Cold in Dorset


11:27am 5th March 2014
(Updated 11:29am 5th March 2014)

There's concern the Government hasn't put enough money into the Free School Meals programme, that's going to be rolled out to Dorset Primary Schools in September.

The policy was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last year and schools in England have just 5 months left to set up the facilities they need to feed their hungry infants.

So far, Dorset County Council has received £880,000 pounds that will pay for the creation of kitchens within local schools, setting up food contracts, expanding halls and potentially employing more staff to help with the lunchtime rush.

Head teachers received their first letter on the subject from the education secretary, Michael Gove, and the schools minister, David Laws, in January, informing them they are obliged to implement the policy by September. But it’s a massive change for our local schools and the County Council who face an uphill climb to make sure the lunches aren’t dished up cold this Autumn.

Dorset Cabinet Member for Education Toni Coombes says the government money isn't enough to make the roll out happen;

"When you consider the number of schools that we have across Dorset and the huge increase in uptake this will have for the under 7's, it's - the money - actually not going to go anywhere near to the costs needed to improve facilities in our schools."

"The delay in the announcement in the funding leaves us with 5 months to procure and install everything ready from September and it's really getting very tight now."

The Government is expected to announce more details on the Free Schools Programme this week (March 2nd – 7th) and Councillor Coombes hopes they're planning to put more cash behind it;

"We're hoping the government will allocate more funding into this so we can actually put in what we need to, so the children can receive the hot meals they've been promised."

"When you consider that we've got to buy extra refrigeration, extra ovens, in some cases extend kitchens, and there are some schools for example Wyke Regis and Christchurch infants where the uptake is so huge we're going to have real difficulty putting in the facilities."

"It's going to be a real challenge not only for the authority but for the schools and the management. If you look at the larger infant schools in Dorset that have 400 children, with a hot meal in a very small school hall is going to be a logistical nightmare."

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