Pupils to get meals on wheels as schools lack catering facilities

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Hot food will have to be delivered to Yorkshire schools when the Government introduces free school meals for infants in September because of a lack of catering facilities.

New figures suggest that around 2,700 primary and infant schools across England do not have adequate facilities to be able to dish out hot meals to pupils.

More than 1,700 primaries across the country currently do not have a kitchen at all.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has championed the policy, said the Government is providing £150m to upgrade school kitchens.

But some of the 152 schools that provided information following requests from the BBC said they would need more than their allocation.

In Mr Clegg’s own constituency of Sheffield Hallam, the local authority ordered catering contractors Taylor Shaw to carry out a review shortly after the policy was announced to identify those without the facilities to provide hot meals.

Sheffield City Council said arrangements have since been put in place to have the hot meals delivered direct to primaries to ensure all of them comply with the new rules.

A council spokesman said: “The time scale has been quite tight since the Government announced this policy and a lot of hard work has been undertaken over the past six months.

“There were some schools found which didn’t have adequate facilities.

“A lot had wound down on hot meals over the years because more children are taking in packed lunches. The number of schools without them was not huge.

“The detailed plan is currently being implemented, which will ensure that all schools in 
Sheffield will have the facilities and staffing required to 
deliver universal free school meals effectively from September.”

Leeds City Council is already aware of schools which require improvements to kitchen facilities and officers are set to carry out an full assessment in the coming weeks.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We will know the number of schools where work is needed within the next few weeks.

“There are some where new ventilation is needed and others where there might be comparatively little to do.”

Mr Clegg announced the free school meals pledge last year.

He said: “All schools are being provided with the necessary support and funding to prepare them to provide free meals. Funding is being made available to improve kitchens and dining facilities, whilst there is an additional £22.5m specifically to help smaller schools.

“There is also a support service, including a national helpline, run by the Children’s Food Trust, to help and support schools across the country – giving advice on the various issues that may arise including visits and one-to-one help where needed.

“Free lunches in schools will improve the lives of many children, as well as saving families over £400 a year per child.

“Many studies have found that nutritious meals at school improve pupils’ health, behaviour, concentration and their overall wellbeing and these findings have been backed by the Department of Health and Department of Education.

“Free school meals will provide all children with the best possible start in life, giving them the future that they deserve. It will help level out the playing field, giving poorer children opportunity to fulfil their potential.”