Is this a Free for All?
Earlier this month Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg announced a free school meals pledge for children between the ages of four and seven. With the changes to child benefits which were met with negativity, some parents were impressed when the healthy free school meal pledge was declared. On the other hand, other parents thought that free school meals would not impact their lives as their children favour packed lunch and were outraged when ministers suggested that packed lunch should be banned to promote healthy eating. This proposed banning was met with great criticism as parents felt that the government was unfairly accusing them of packing unhealthy meals for their children.
Not only are some parents unimpressed by the announcement but teachers are also worried too. The government has already enforced school food to be healthy, nonetheless many teachers still think that school food is not up to scratch and many have described school meals sometimes tasting ‘processed’ or feeling extremely ‘institutionalised’. The concern stretches into 2014 where some teachers consider that the government will not be able to deliver healthy meals without a few hiccups and don’t want to be left with a classroom full of hyperactive children! It’s not all doom and gloom as many teachers have also welcomed the proposal due to their growing concern of the unhealthy lunches that children are increasingly consuming such as fast food and sugary snacks; believing that healthy school meals is the better prospect.
At a Labour Party conference Clegg guaranteed free healthy hot meals for children starting 2014 in England and even went to the trouble of attending a school in Glasgow to promote this new policy…but wait let’s read this sentence again. Yes, that’s right…Clegg has only promised free school meals for English students, therefore this does not include Scotland or Wales which really did not go down too well with local Scottish and Welsh schools! Don’t feel too down about the rest of the UK missing out as primary school children in Wales are already offered free breakfast and according to the Welsh Assembly has greatly improved behaviour and concentration in schools. In Scotland local authorities have the right to initiate a free school breakfast or meal for children attending schools in a certain area.
This misrepresentation was not a great start to the campaign, yet, as a provider of resources for school children I have my finger crossed and hope that the 2014 healthy school meals campaign really brings delight to lunchtime for all, as well as helping children concentrate better! Finally, yes it is a ‘free for all’ but only time will tell if teachers and parents accept or reject this free offering from the government corresponding to how much damage or benefit it brings.