Plan for free college lunches is welcomed

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Moves to give disadvantaged teenagers free lunches from next year have been welcomed by top brass at Sheffield College.

The college has been a strong supporter of a national campaign seeking to abolish an anomaly which sees school sixth formers able to claim free meals - while college students of the same age can’t.

It’s believed that more than 16 to 18-year-olds all over England are missing out as a result.

Sheffield College supported a campaign and petition seeking to get college students a fair deal.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed changes will now be made from September 2014.

Bill Jones, college executive director, said: “This is great news for our 16 to 18-year-old students from low income households, some of whom miss lunch to save money.

“If students are worrying about money and haven’t eaten well, they struggle to concentrate and do not have the energy to do their best and achieve their potential.”

Colleges educate almost twice as many young people nationally in the 16 to 18 age group than schools, according to the Association of Colleges.

At Sheffield College there are currently approximately 6,200 students aged 16 to 18 studying academic and vocational qualifications full time.

It is not known how many would qualify for a free lunch.

The college operates a food bank to ensure students who are struggling financially can discreetly collect cans, packet food, rice, pasta, drink cartons and breakfast bars, donated by college staff.

The announcement on college lunches received little attention when it was made at the Lib Dem conference - most of the focus fell on plans for free school meals for five to seven-year-olds.