Michael Gove blocks extension of free school meals

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school canteen.jpgSecretary of State for Education Michael Gove has quashed plans made by the last Government to extend the free school meals pilot to a further 600,000 pupils this year.

The LibDem-Conservative coalition Government's future plans for free school meals pilots were outlined in a letter published yesterday from Gove to his Labour party opposite, Ed Balls, in which Gove said he is sympathetic to the arguments for extending eligibility.

However, he expressed surprise that a decision to extend the pilots was taken "before any evidence on the impact of attainment could be collected". He said that the sum of £85m allocated by the previous Government to extend free school meals this year fell far short of the £125m "true cost" estimated by the new Department for Education.

Gove added that decisions about the future of free school meals would be returned to, with the chief secretary and secretary of state for work and pensions, at the next spending review.

Judy Hargadon, the chief executive of the School Food Trust, said the SFT would be in talks with those areas where pilots will no longer go ahead about other ways in which they could continue to use school food as an integral part of their work to improve children's health and attainment.

"Free school meals are crucial in helping families with low incomes to make sure their children get a well-balanced meal during the school day and this is particularly important at a time when household budgets are so tight," she added. "It's up to everyone involved with school food to make sure that all families entitled to free school meals are claiming them."

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