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Maintain free school meals

Last updated 3 weeks ago

Children should grow up in an environment with no limits to their potential – which is one of the reasons we are [...] maintaining our commitment to free school meals.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2019, p.17

Our verdict

  • This is a promise to maintain a commitment to the principle of providing at least one free meal on every school day for children in need.
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, under pressure from a campaign fronted by footballer Marcus Rashford, the government agreed to provide free school meals to qualifying children over the 2020 summer holidays. In October 2020, the government voted against funding continued provision in school holidays, but was forced into a U-turn. In January 2021, the government announced schools would continue to provide free school meals during the national coronavirus lockdown, but some of the provision was later called “a scandal and a disgrace” by the Prime Minister, and there was criticism of the mechanism for provision during school holidays. There remain no plans for direct funding of food packages or vouchers over the summer holidays in 2021, with the government instead allocating £220 million for local authorities to administer its holiday activities and food programme.
  • This is a promise to maintain a commitment to a principle, and – albeit resulting from the intervention of schools, local authorities and the public – the government has not abandoned the principle. Many individuals and organisations argue that maintaining the current level of commitment is not good enough, but nonetheless, this policy is ‘done’.

There's always room for debate

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