I had to turn up the radio yesterday as I heard the news. For a minute I thought I was hearing things? Free school meals, for all children? Really?
I am quite oblivious to what is going on in the news, half the time I’m asleep before the ten o’clock news so I really wasn’t expecting this big piece of news. Like many parents across the UK, this means my son will be entitled to a free hot lunch at school, and he will enjoy this benefit for his final two years at infant school. Of course I am happy that my son will get a free hot meal but if the government thinks I cannot afford to send my son to school with a healthy lunch then I wish they would concentrate their efforts on bringing down our household bills instead.
What really bugs me about this decision is how the government can justify spending £600m on a plan that is to benefit the more affluent of families. The children who are living in poverty are already entitled to a free school meal so it is not going to benefit those that need it most. It also won’t benefit those children over 7 years old. Why not roll this out to all school children if they think the benefits are worth this amount of money? Do children stop needing a good nutritional meal when they are 7?
The other problem I have with this decision is where is the money going to come from? We are still in the depths of recession, no matter what the government likes to tell us. Couldn’t this money be put to better use? Plans to slash school’s budgets have already been proposed by Michael Gove which could mean some staff such as Teaching Assistant’s losing their jobs, this will have a detrimental effect on our children’s education. Teachers will be under more pressure, children that need one-to-one support will not get it. I work in a school on a voluntary basis and I have seen just how valuable Teaching Assistants are and just how much work they do. It’s not just about listening to children read anymore, they are a vital part of the education system. They provide one-to-one support for children with special educational needs and they assist the teachers who have to manage large classes of up to 30 children. I’d like to see Michael Gove manage a class of that size without any support!
So, is there such a thing as a free lunch or will our education system pay for it in the long run? What do you think?